By Burke Balch, JD, Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics
Editor’s note. We posted this story from Mr. Balch on Thursday, February 27. On Friday, February 28, as we were about to post the February/March issue of National Right to Life News, we learned that “A Place for Mom” had removed “The importance of End-of-Life Planning” from its official blog. We have removed the link that originally appeared in Mr. Balch’s story. We will continue to monitor the blog for any further developments.
Have you seen the ads in which it is claimed, “You can trust A Place for Mom to help you”? Evidently at least part of what is meant is, “You can trust A Place for Mom to help you find a group to help Mom kill herself.”
“A Place for Mom” bills itself as “the nation’s largest senior living referral service . . . paid by the senior living communities and care providers in our network so our service is provided to consumers at no charge.” In a February 26, 2014, entry on its official blog titled “The Importance of End-of-Life Planning.” A Place for Mom’s writer Jennifer Wegerer promoted the euthanasia advocacy organization Compassion and Choices of Washington.
As the blog notes, “In 2008, the organization supported the Washington Death with Dignity Act, which allows mentally competent, terminally ill adults with less than six months to live to request life-ending medication . . ..” A Place for Mom’s blog tells people they can contact Compassion and Choices “Client Support Volunteers [who] are present at the time of death for their clients who elect to self-administer medication” which, it states, is “so that family members can focus on their loved one.”
The blog post complains that “as clinics and hospices fall under the control of religiously-affiliated health care systems, more providers are being prohibited from participating in Death with Dignity.” It quotes Compassion and Choices’s Executive Director, Robb Miller, as saying “This forces medical providers to essentially abandon the patient . . .” The post notes, “Robb asserts that medical providers in Washington State, even those opposed to the option of Death with Dignity, have a professional, ethical duty to provide either basic information about Death with Dignity to their terminal patients who make inquiries about the option or refer them to someone who will.”
The piece ends with these sentences in italics, “A Place for Mom recognizes that laws permitting physician assisted suicide . . . are controversial and opposed by some based on strong moral convictions. While neutral in matters of public policy, A Place for Mom is committed to educating the public about all issues relating to senior care and end-of life care.”
A Place for Mom evidently considers referring people to a group providing “Client Support Volunteers” who will “ensure that the medical protocol for taking the life-ending medication is followed” to be an appropriate form of “educating the public.” Yet the blog post by this “neutral” referral company, which talks of “Giving Choice to the Dying,” provides no information about suicide prevention services, or how to access available medical resources for the counseling and medication that can treat suicidal depression.
(Bioethicist Wesley Smith posted on A Place for Mom on his blog. His thoughtful commentary can be read here.)
If you want to let A Place for Mom know what you think, you can contact the company at 866-344-8005. You may wish to tell them how disappointed you are that a referral service that advertises helping find places for senior citizens to live is promoting an assisted suicide advocacy group. Tell them that you will make no use of their referral service and that you will urge your friends and family to refuse to do so as well.