Compassionate End-of-Life Care with Fran Smith and Sheila Himmel

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We all hope for dying well and living fully until we do. The truth is that we don’t have a choice about whether or not we’re going to die, but sometimes we have a choice about whether our dying is going to be easier or harder. The hospice movement has been integral in helping patients and their families move through this most intense transition of dying. Not only does it offer support to the patient, it supports the entire family as well. Beyond physical care and pain management, hospice’s mandate is to offer spiritual as well as bereavement care. Surprisingly, hospice care is now a $14 billion business and many for-profit care operations are forming. This dialogue offers some practical suggestions for choosing hospice care. Smith and Himmel describe the philosophy of hospice care as, “Helping people to live fully as long as they can. It is about treating people, not treating disease, and the focus is on the whole family because, especially, a dying patient is not floating out there in isolation. They are part of a family system, however they define family. It’s about providing symptom relief but in a very broad way. It looks at physical suffering as only one part of suffering. There’s emotional suffering, there’s spiritual suffering, and hospice services address all of that as well as practical support.” (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Fran Smith and Sheila Himmel are both award winning journalists and have done extensive research on the hospice movement.

They are the co-authors of:

To learn more about the work of Fran Smith and Sheila Himmel go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • What is the philosophy of hospice
  • Why choosing hospice care does not mean a giving up on life and treatment
  • What is covered by Medicare for hospice care
  • What does the homecare form of hospice look like
  • Why there are so many for profit hospice care businesses opening
  • What are some of the questions we can ask when looking for hospice care
  • How does hospice utilize volunteers
  • What is the advice when a family doesn’t want to talk about death and chooses aggressive treatment
  • What was Justine’s experience of end of life for her mother and for her husband
  • How does hospice support spiritual care and bereavement counseling
  • What is the importance of end of life medical directives

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 2/7/2014   Program Number: 3498

Music Playlist

From Album: Hidden Sky
Artist: Jami Sieber
2004 Out Front Music #OFM 1010

Opening Essay: Track 01 Maenam
Music Break 1: Track 05 Red Moon
Music Break 2: Track 09 Hidden Sky
Music Break 3: Track 11 Arms of the Mother