Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the NewsLink Today newsletter emailed to members of the New Jersey Hospitals Association.
Rabbi Address appeared on a panel of clergy at the New Jersey Hospitals Association’s April 16 Embracing Palliative Care in Practice conference.
Panelists representing an array of perspectives discussed palliative care through the lens of clinical practice, religious beliefs and the patient and family experience. It also featured a poster session highlighting palliative care initiatives under way by NJHA members and colleagues.
In addition, keynote speaker Susan E. Cohen, MD, director of the palliative care program at Bellevue Hospital and director of the hospice and palliative medicine fellowship at NYU Medical School, addressed the increasingly pertinent topic of “Physician-Assisted Dying and Requests for Hastened Death.”
Cohen reviewed the history of provider-assisted death – reaching as far back as ancient Greece and Roman times – as well as various states’ legalization of the practice. With Gov. Murphy signing the state’s aid-in-dying bill last Friday, attendees were keen on understanding what to expect when the law takes effect in August.
Through the stories of three of her patients who requested aid in dying, Cohen applied ethical and professional dilemmas to real-world situations. She outlined examples of treatment options for some of the underlying reasons a patient would request a hastened death – including depression and hopelessness – and used data from nearly 20 years of legal provider-assisted death in Oregon to explain the prevalence and demographics of the requests.
Cohen said that a request for hastened death can be both a signal that a patient is in crisis as well as a rich clinical opportunity. The best way for a provider to approach the situation is to listen to patients and take time to examine their own beliefs and professional obligations, she said.
The program kicked off with opening remarks on palliative care from Jessica Israel, MD, corporate chair of geriatrics and palliative care for RWJBarnabas Health. Her presentation was followed by a multi-faith panel of clergy members featuring Rabbi Richard F. Address of Jewish Sacred Aging; Jeffrey T. Garland of VNA Barnabas Hospice and Palliative Care Group and a Baptist minister; Rev. Kevin O’Neill of San Alphonso Retreat House and Imam Sohaib Sultan, Muslim life chaplain at Princeton University. The panel was moderated by Tedford Taylor, director of pastoral care and training at RWJBarnabas Health – Hamilton.
A physician provider panel, moderated by Anne Mosenthal, MD, professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, featured Kate Aberger, MD, director of the division of palliative care at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center; Amy Frieman, MD, corporate medical director, palliative care services, at Hackensack Meridian Health; and Joshua Raymond, MD, associate professor at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and a member of CentraState’s Palliative Care Committee.
The program culminated with a family’s journey through palliative care and hospice, featuring Andrea and Darryl Gladden, who shared the story of their daughter Deadra, with Stephen Goldfine, MD, chief medical officer for Samaritan Healthcare Hospice.