May 13, 2012
To all concerned in the consideration of the Aroostook House of Comfort:
Dying with dignity is one of the most basic human rights, and yet it is rarely achieved in spite of our nation’s sophisticated healthcare system. As a family physician, I am honored to take care of patients from the cradle to the grave. Participating in the end of life with my patients is one of my greatest privileges. My hospital is blessed with an exceptional multi-disciplinary palliative care team, and their efforts help smooth the transition from life to death, from battle with illness to final rest. But even with such resources, patients under our care consistently desire one thing: “I want to go home,” or even more simply, “I don’t want to die in the hospital.” All too often we are unable to fulfill this simple request.
I was deeply influenced by the month of medical school that I spent working with Hospice of Aroostook County. The staff was outstanding, and the time with patients in their homes was enlightening and precious. I continue to reflect on that time and feel deep in my bones, “that was how it’s supposed to be.” This is re-iterated in resounding irony when I discuss facing death with my colleagues; almost without exception, those of us exposed to enough hospital deaths state that we would ourselves prefer to die at home and with as little intervention as possible.
There are many reasons people do not achieve their last goal of slipping peacefully from this world unencumbered by plastic tubing and beeping machines. Often a home environment is not suitable or safe, or a caregiver is unavailable. Other times pain is not adequately controlled at home. But patients in these situations still deserve the same opportunity to have control over their last moments . . . and now Aroostook County has an opportunity to make that possible.
The Aroostook House of Comfort would be an enormous asset to its community, a bright spot of peace and sanity in the chaos of families’ grief. The patients blessed with its services would be comforted and relieved, and the rest of us would get a chance to see how beautiful and full the end of life can be. It gives me chills to think of how influential that could be.
County folks, and those of us like myself who are lucky enough to descend from them, understand the importance of respecting one another and helping one another through all that life and death can throw upon us. The House of Comfort would be a practical outflow of these innate County values. We presently have the opportunity now to offer a beautiful alternative to, a haven from, impersonal, over-medicalized deaths. My professional and personal perspective asks not only, “what if…” when I consider the House of Comfort, but moreso, “how could we not?” The community of Aroostook County deserves and desperately needs such a facility.
My full support, hopes and prayers are backing the cause of The House of Comfort.
Kate Peters, D.O.