Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hospice, home and a knight's story

In the seventh century Knight Crusaders established safe houses for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land; these knights were the Order of Hospitallers and their keeps were known as Hospice

A lodging for travelers (especially one kept by a monastic order)
Alternatively, a program of medical and emotional care for the terminally ill ...Wordnet.princeton.edu

Hospice has held a variety of meanings to different people and cultures throughout history. By its simplest definition hospice today means an organized medical intervention on behalf of a patient nearing the end of life; but there are other meanings worth considering.
It seems clear in this century that as medical science and associated technologies evolve so to will the meaning of ‘end of life’ and therefore by simple association, the definition of hospice.
JAMA the Journal of the American Medical Association as recently as 2006 defined hospice care as, “Focused on the dying process and helping individuals who are terminally ill (and their family and friends) pass through this process more comfortably.”  (Vol. 295 No. 6, February 8, 2006)
Still hospice can and often does mean much more than that. Hospice care frequently transcends palliative care for the patient at end of life by extending the human bond to the family of the patient, friends and acquaintances and even animals may be incorporated into the care of hospice. Sometimes for months after the death of the patient, hospice professionals provide assistance for the survivors with grieving, loss of social support and a host of alternative services not traditionally associated with hospice. In this way hospice becomes part of the larger community and, like any other organization with a focused societal mission, hospice holds the potential to serve the community in a growing number of ways.
Similar organizations originally based on a narrowly defined service mission and volunteerism such as Red Cross, S.P.C.A. and M.A.D.D have found that their organizations, once activated, may, often as not, assume a variety of roles reaching well beyond their initial concept.
In March 2008 the first International Symposium on Veterinary Hospice Care was held on the campus at UC Davis; the meeting’s stated goal was to begin to, “Explore veterinary hospice care, based on human hospice models.”
As those hospice models evolve more families including pet families will find themselves considering these questions and the principles that define the whole family and ultimately, care under hospice.
Like the emerging field of Animal Law, Animal Hospice may begin to evolve in some spectacular and unexpected ways; homeless advocacy, care and shelter from domestic violence and working animal protections including retirement and minimum wage guarantees may be the sea change markers applied to the human-animal bond this century.
In 2008 American Humane announced its PAWS Program designed to encourage women's shelters to take in family pets along with the other victims of domestic abuse; PAWS stands for Pets and Women’s Shelters. Certainly that commitment should be acknowledged as care of the whole family.
While some of these prospects may seem pie in the sky, in general equal rights and treatment under law must by extension of definition apply to all creatures not just man. As our society matures and we strive to improve our environment then clearly that effort must include a recognition that there is much more to the human-animal bond; that some sense of caring for one another is not limited to one species any more than it is limited to one race or one nationality.

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