Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Role of Villian Just Doesn't Fit Hospice

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Role of Villian Just Doesn't Fit Hospice

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods

In an 18-month span, Doreen O'Toole lost her mother and her sister.

Minnie Dube, 82, and Judi Hilgenberg, 58, died of different causes, under different circumstances. But each passed away in a similar environment -- a hospice facility in Jacksonville -- and each went there at a time when it was nearly impossible to turn on a TV without seeing images from outside a hospice facility on the other side of the state.

As the country argued about Terri Schiavo, first in the fall of 2003, then in the spring of 2005, O'Toole found herself thinking about the other patients and families inside that building in Pinellas Park, about what they were going through -- and about the misconceptions surrounding hospice care.

Even worse than the misconceptions, lately hospice, of all places, has been getting vilified.

Some of it happened in the heat of the Schiavo debate, as protesters took their emotions about that specific case and extrapolated them to hospice, holding up signs that said things like "Killing House." Some of it has come from politicians who have juxtaposed references to hospice with phrases like "culture of death" and made it sound as if hospice, by dealing with end-of-life care, is "pro-death."

"The problem with hospice in my opinion, now having gone through it twice, is that no one wants to deal with their mortality or their loved ones' mortality," O'Toole said. "It's the only guarantee we've really got. People say well, taxes, but you can evade those for a while. Some day we're going to die. But it's not an easy thing to discuss."

With that in mind, O'Toole was willing discuss what hospice meant to her and her family. And while this is only one person and two stories, I'm sure her thoughts and stories would be echoed by many others.

O'Toole describes her sister fighting lung cancer for five years. …

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