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Saturday, January 2, 2010

The happiest six months of her life: Hospice care

Fiona Harrison's story:

To the Editor of the New York Times:

Your article, "Weighing the Medical Costs of End-of-Life Care," on Dec. 23, focuses on quantity of life versus cost, but what about the suffering of the patient and the family?

During her first year, my daughter Erica was treated at UCLA Medical Center. From birth she suffered severe neurological defects, causing her great physical pain. My husband and I, daily witnesses to her suffering, decide to seek pediatric hospice care.

UCLA refused to consider a hospice referral, so we decided to transfer Erica to Children's Hospital Los Angeles, which serves a less affluent population, and where the doctors supported a transfer to hospice care.

The results were dramatic. Her care focused on pain relief over survival, and Erica had the happiest six months of her life. She died at home, in our arms – perhaps a few months earlier than if we had kept her at UCLA, at lower cost and, most important to us, with much less pain and suffering.

Read Art Buchwald's hospice story. Thanks to Fiona Harrison for her letter to the editor in the New York Times on Jan. 2

Advice to families with terminally ill loved ones: You can insist on hospice care if you want to.

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