Rehabilitation of Hospice and Acceptance of Death
By Emanuel Tanay, MD
In January 2009, I was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer. The capsule of my prostate was broken and therefore, my cancer could not be eradicated. From time to time, I had episodes of extreme pain, which necessitated trips to emergency rooms.
When I made the decision to avail myself of Arbor Hospice in February 2014, the reactions of my family, friends, neighbors and colleagues were mind-boggling. “Shhh, he’s on hospice,” was what my one neighbor said to the other when they learned that I am a hospice patient.
When it comes to death, our society indulges in collective denial. Death and dying are difficult to think about and even harder to talk about.
The word itself – hospice – can be scary. Hospice has an image inconsistent with its reality. Most people do not understand what hospice is and how it helps individuals and their loved ones, nearing the end of life.
I am a Holocaust survivor, physician, retired clinical professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University, and forensic psychiatrist. Despite my education and medical background, I was unfamiliar with hospice. The reality is that hospice is an invaluable asset for patients and families dealing with advanced illness.
Since I joined Arbor Hospice, my wife and I are no longer subjected to the misery of emergency room visits. Day or night, a telephone call to Arbor Hospice brings about a visit by a nurse, which invariably provides relief. My regular Arbor Hospice nurse, Helen, is a competent professional; in her absence, another nurse will be in my home quickly and provide appropriate assistance.
Hospice nurses are highly knowledgeable about the trials and tribulations of prostate cancer and other serious illnesses. All of the nurses have impressed me with their knowledge and most of all, their capacity for empathy. My wife, who is my caretaker, and the emergency room are no longer the only resources I have.
My cancer is just as incurable in 2014 as it was in 2009. However, the day of my death remains unknown. Hospice allows me to lead a productive life in my home, where I want to be.
I was a forensic psychiatrist for more than fifty years, taking part in thousands of criminal and civil cases as a psychiatric expert witness. Being a forensic psychiatrist was more than an occupation, more than a profession; it was a calling. In my experience, the same can be said about the Arbor Hospice clinicians. End of life care is their calling. Compassion, comfort and empathy are part of Arbor Hospice’s mission and are rooted in its employees. That makes Arbor Hospice the most valuable resource for patients and families facing the end-of-life. A resource available to all.
Emanuel Tanay, MD, is a highly regarded forensic psychiatrist who has served as an expert witness in the well-known cases of Jack Ruby, Ted Bundy, and Sam Sheppard. Dr. Tanay is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy Forensic Science and of the American Psychiatric Society. A now retired clinical professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University in Detroit, Dr. Tanay has taught widely in the United States and Europe and published numerous articles about forensic psychiatry, post-traumatic stress, and the holocaust. He was a consultant to the German government regarding compensation to survivors of concentration camps. Dr. Tanay was Resident Scholar at the Department of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Stockton College of New Jersey.
Dr. Tanay is the author of Passport to Life: Reflections of a Holocaust Survivor, an autobiography of his experiences in Europe during World War II and a series of essays about the roots of bigotry and genocide. He is a graduate of the University of Munich Medical School in Germany and completed an internship and residency in Illinois, as well as post-graduate work at the University of Michigan.
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