Death with Dignity: DC Residents Learning about New End-of-Life Law

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More than a year after a controversial end-of-life law went into effect in the District of Columbia, advocacy groups say they are now seeing a higher public response to its efforts to ensure city residents know the law exists.

How many people have used the law will become clearer in an upcoming February report. As of last April, no patient had yet used the law, according news accounts.

The Death with Dignity Act allows mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months to live to request lethal doses of prescription medication so they can die peacefully and comfortably in their homes or any place where they have been granted permission to do so.

One of the law’s main proponents, Compassion & Choices, has helped the District of Columbia Council advocate for the legislation and educate Washington residents about the new option for patients with terminal illnesses.

The administrative side of the end-of-life process apparently has dissuaded physicians, pharmacists and patients from using the law, but local public service announcements have helped spike interest and attention, Sean Crowley, spokesman for Compassion & Choices, told Capital News Service in an interview.

His group declined to say how many doctors in the District registered to use the law, as it did not have access to such records. But as of last April, only two doctors among the roughly 11,000 doctors in the city had registered to use the law and just one hospital had approved doctors for the practice, according to The Washington Post.

The District of Columbia Department of Health is set to release a detailed report in February on how many patients have utilized lethal drugs and how many physicians have administered them. But to date, no patients have volunteered to go public with their stories.

During September, Compassion & Choices distributed television public service announcements promoting the end-of-life law, featuring prominent Washingtonians Diane Rehm, a former WAMU radio show host, and Dr. Omega Silva, a retired physician.

The announcements, which began Labor Day weekend, aired on various Comcast stations. Compassion & Choices reported that there were 229 visits to the group’s page during September, compared to only 56 for the same month a year ago – a 400 percent increase.

In addition to the District, six states have end-of-life, or physician-assisted dying laws: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, according to the nonprofit Death with Dignity National Center, based in Portland, Oregon.

Efforts to pass a similar law in Maryland have been unsuccessful.

Since the District’s end-of-life bill was introduced in 2015, organizations such as Right to Life and conservatives in Congress have opposed it and tried to defund it.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, introduced an amendment in 2017 to defund and repeal the law. The amendment failed to pass the House Appropriations Committee.

Harris, a physician, criticized what he called “the so-called Death With Dignity Act,” saying “most people don’t associate suicide with dignity in any way shape or form.”

“It sends a strong message that regardless of the many types of disease you might have and the many types of treatment that may be available, there is one common pathway that in this case the District would say is perfectly acceptable, it is legal,” he said. “It’s actually to go to a physician and ask if they can participate in your suicide. That doesn’t lead to more choice – that leads to one choice.”

The House will be controlled by the Democrats next month, making the prospects for repealing the District bill more remote.

In any case, Crowley said that “lawmakers from outside the District should not dictate to district lawmakers what laws they should pass for their local constituents.”

“Other states would never allow lawmakers from outside their state dictate what their states can do,” he said. “Why should they be allowed to dictate in D.C.?”

Since its founding as the seat of the federal government, the District of Columbia has not had voting representation in Congress, although it has some limited autonomy. Even so, Congress has the power to review and repeal District laws.

“That Congress thinks it should substitute its judgment for the judgment of the residents of the District of Columbia is odious enough,” said Councilmember Mary Cheh, who sponsored the end-of-life bill. “That it would presume to substitute its judgment for the judgment of people who are dying is unconscionable. Such an action is fundamentally undemocratic and it should not stand.”

By Morgan Caplan

Compass Regional Hospice’s Ongoing Grief Support Groups

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Bereaved Parent Grief Support Group — First Monday of each month; Dec. 3 and Jan. 7. From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Compass Regional Hospice, 255 Comet Drive, Centreville. A drop-in group for individuals, 18 and older, dealing with the loss of a child. For more information, contact Rhonda Knotts at 443-262-4109 or rknotts@compassregionalhospice.org.

HALOS-Healing After a Loved One’s Suicide Grief Support Group — Second Wednesday of each month; Dec. 12 and Jan. 9. From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Compass Regional Hospice, 255 Comet Drive, Centreville. A drop-in group for individuals, 18 and older, dealing with the loss of a loved one from suicide. For more information, contact Rhonda Knotts at 443-262-4109 or rknotts@compassregionalhospice.org, or Wayne Larrimore at 443-262-4108 or wlarrimore@compassregionalhospice.org.

Drug Overdose Grief Support Group — Third Thursday of each month; Dec. 20 and Jan. 17. From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Compass Regional Hospice, 255 Comet Drive, Centreville.  A drop-in group for individuals, 18 and older, dealing with the loss of a loved one from drug overdose. Please join us for dinner and conversation/discussion. There also may be special guests or presenters to the group from time to time. There will be a special guest during the January meeting. For more information, contact Rhonda Knotts at 443-262-4109 or rknotts@compssregionalhospice.org, or Linda Turner at 443-262-4120 or lturner@compassregionalhospice.org.

All Losses Grief Support Group — Fourth Tuesday of each month. Due to the Christmas holiday, there will be no group meeting in December. The group will begin its regular meetings again on Jan. 22. From noon to 1:15 p.m. at the Caroline County Public Library, Federalsburg branch, 123 Morris Ave., Federalsburg. A drop-in group for individuals, 18 and older, who have experienced any type of loss. Please bring a lunch. For more information, contact Wayne Larrimore at 443-262-4108 or wlarrimore@compassregionalhospice.org.

Compass Regional Hospice – Care on your terms

Compass Regional Hospice is a fully licensed, independent, community-based nonprofit organization certified by Medicare and the state of Maryland and accredited by the Joint Commission. Since 1985, Compass Regional Hospice has been dedicated to supporting people of all ages through the challenge of living with a life-limiting illness and learning to live following the death of a loved one. Today, the organization is a regional provider of hospice care and grief support in Queen Anne’s, Kent and Caroline counties. “Care on your terms” is the promise that guides staff and volunteers as they care for patients in private residences, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and the residential hospice centers in Centreville and Chestertown. Grief support services are offered to children, adults and families of patients who died under hospice care, as well as members of the community who are grieving the loss of a loved one, through The Hope and Healing Center. For more information about Compass Regional Hospice, visit compassregionalhospice.org.

Stevensville Boy Donates Books to Compass Regional Hospice

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Lucas Hetzel, 13, of Stevensville recently donated more than 700 children’s books to Compass Regional Hospice, to be used with the nonprofit organization’s support groups; through Camp New Dawn, a grief retreat summer camp for children, teens and families; and at the lending library, located at the Hope and Healing Center wing of the Hospice Center in Centreville, 255 Comet Drive, home of Compass Regional Hospice’s Grief Support Services. The lending library includes books, CDs and DVDs available to Hospice Center patients and their families, as well as anyone in the community who is in interested in finding information about hope and healing following a loss. For more information about donating to Compass Regional Hospice, please contact Kenda Leager, development officer, Compass Regional Hospice, at 443-262-4106 or kleager@compassregionalhospice.org. For more information about our Grief Support Services offered for free to anyone in the community who is suffering the loss of a loved one, please contact Rhonda Knotts, Grief Support supervisor, Compass Regional Hospice, at 443-262-4109 or rknotts@compassregionalhospice.org.

Compass Regional Hospice – Care on your terms

Compass Regional Hospice is a fully licensed, independent, community-based nonprofit organization certified by Medicare and the state of Maryland and accredited by the Joint Commission. Since 1985, Compass Regional Hospice has been dedicated to supporting people of all ages through the challenge of living with a life-limiting illness and learning to live following the death of a loved one. Today, the organization is a regional provider of hospice care and grief support in Queen Anne’s, Kent and Caroline counties. “Care on your terms” is the promise that guides staff and volunteers as they care for patients in private residences, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and the residential hospice centers in Centreville and Chestertown. Grief support services are offered to children, adults and families of patients who died under hospice care, as well as members of the community who are grieving the loss of a loved one, through The Hope and Healing Center. For more information about Compass Regional Hospice, visit compassregionalhospice.org.

Washington College’s Phi Delta Theta Raises $10K for ALS Research

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Brothers from Washington College’s Phi Delta Theta today presented a check for $10,000 to representatives of the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins, matching for the second year in a row the highest donation the fraternity has raised with its annual crab feast.

“I’m so proud of these young men, whose hearts are so clearly in the right place,” said College President Kurt Landgraf, who took part in the presentation. “The effort and commitment they put into this event is substantial, and their support of this cause is something to celebrate.”

“We can’t thank Phi Delta Theta enough for their generous donation,” said Emily Baxi, Director of the Robert Packard Center. “Their energy, enthusiasm, and dedication to finding a cure for ALS is inspiring. We look forward to partnering with Phi Delta Theta and taking part in many future crab feasts.”

Photo: Members of WC’s Phi Delta Theta present an honorary check to Heather Culp ’00 of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Also attending the presentation are College President Kurt Landgraf, and (L to R upper right) Sarah Feyerherm, Dean of Students, and Gina Scalise and Laura Renaud of the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research.

Phi Delta Theta has been hosting its annual crab feast fundraiser for 28 years, raising money to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a motor neuron disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Two years ago, the fraternity began partnering with the Packard Center, which is the only international scientific operation dedicated solely to curing ALS. The Center is unique in its approach to fighting ALS, in that it combines and facilitates scientific collaboration and ALS research with fundraising for the development of new treatments and with a goal of finding a cure to the disease.

“We saw an opportunity to have an impact with an organization that we could have a more personal relationship with, and is nearby,” says Phi Delta Theta’s Jacob Yollof ’19. To date, the fraternity has raised $22,290 for the Packard Center.

As Phi Delta Theta’s biggest fundraiser, everyone in the fraternity pitches in to help make the event a success. Between 250 to 350 people come out during Fall Family Weekend to crack crabs and socialize on the waterfront at Lelia Hynson Pavilion.

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

Regional Diabetes Center Celebrates 10th Anniversary

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Doris Tate, CRNP with Tamra Sanders, a former patient of the Center who shared her story at the event.

UM Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology celebrated its 10th anniversary at an open house event on Friday, November 16 in the Health Education Center at UM Shore Medical Center at Easton.

The event featured a timeline display highlighting the Center’s growth and development since its founding in 2008 and a brief program featuring remarks by Ken Kozel, president and CEO, Bayan Mesmar, MD, the Center’s medical director; Tamra Sanders, a longtime patient of the Center; and Trish Rosenberry, regional director, Specialty Clinics, Rosenberry offered special recognition for staff members Michelle Gomez and Carolyn Crist, both of whom have been with the Center since its inception.

Those in attendance, including a host of present and former patients of the Center, enjoyed a demonstration and sampling of a diabetes-friendly food preparation demonstration by Michelle Gomez and Karen Hollis, nurse diabetes educator.

Kozel noted that each year, the Center now provides care to more than 5700 patients and offers 48 three-session Diabetes Self Management programs in Chestertown and Easton. In addition, diabetes nurse educators provide one-on-one nutritional counseling and treatment support, lead monthly support groups in Cambridge, Chestertown, Denton and Easton, and participate in various community health events around the five county region.

“The Center’s 10th Anniversary is certainly an occasion to celebrate – and on behalf of Senior Leadership and our Board members, I thank all of you who have helped it grow and develop over the past decade and those more recently arrived who are now part of the team,” Kozel said. “Your expertise and dedication are helping UM Shore Regional Health achieve our Vision to Be the Region’s Leader in Patient Centered Care.”

UM CMG Primary Care Announces Addition of Matthew Reetz, DO

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University of Maryland Community Medical Group (UM CMG), announces the addition of Chestertown-based primary care provider Matthew Reetz, DO. Dr. Reetz specializes in family medicine, disease prevention and diagnosis and treatment of long-term and short-term illnesses, and is accepting pediatric and adult primary care patients.

Joining Drs. Susan Ross and Julia Belanger, he is seeing patients at 126 Philosophers Terrace, Suite 102 in Chestertown. Patients may make an appointment by calling 410-778-1878.

UM CMG is a University of Maryland Medical System-owned network of more than 300 primary care physicians, specialists- and advanced practice clinicians. As part of UM CMG, Dr. Reetz is affiliated with UM Shore Regional Health.

Dr. Reetz earned his medical degree from Des Moines University – College of Osteopathic Medicine in Iowa, and completed his residency in family medicine at Franklin Square Hospital Center in Baltimore.

“We are very excited to welcome Dr. Reetz to our team at University of Maryland Community Medical Group – Primary Care in Chestertown,” comments Dr. William Huffner, Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President, Medical Affairs at UM Shore Regional Health. “Dr. Reetz’s experience, knowledge and passion for treating both adults and children will be a wonderful addition to the practice and benefit to our patients in Chestertown.”

UM CMG consists of community-based provider practices affiliated with UM Shore Regional Health, UM Baltimore Washington Medical Center, UM Charles Regional Medical Center and University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus.  A list of UM CMG providers is available at http://docfind.umms.org/cmg.

About the University of Maryland Community Medical Group    

The University of Maryland Community Medical Group (UM CMG) is a multi-hospital, multi-specialty, community-based physician-led group, and part of the University of Maryland Medical System. With more than 300 primary care physicians, specialists, and advanced practice clinicians in more than 75 locations across the state, UM CMG offers patients a vast network of highly experienced providers, delivering care right in their neighborhood. For more information, visit www.umcmg.org.

Washington College Student Serves as Translator for Hispanic Community

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Rachael Walloga, 21, a senior Spanish and international studies major at Washington College in Chestertown, has been an intern with Compass Regional Hospice for the past year.

Walloga offers her translating services to the clinical and communications departments and helps to bridge the gap between the medical community and the local Hispanic community.

After staff from Compass Regional Hospice reached out to Washington College last year, Walloga’s Spanish professor suggested she assist the organization as a translator, knowing Walloga intends to pursue that career following graduation.

“After meeting with Compass staff and hearing about the work they do in the community, I thought it was a wonderful opportunity. I personally love using my language skills to bridge those gaps, so having the opportunity to do so to help those who are vulnerable get access to their health care is fulfilling for me,” Walloga said.

Since beginning her internship with Compass Regional Hospice, Walloga has helped the organization develop Spanish-language informational materials, interpret presentations given by Compass staff at local Hispanic family centers, and has helped translate between clinical staff and Hispanic patients.

Walloga originally is from Chicago, Ill., and in addition to her double-major, she is minoring in French. After she graduates this spring, she hopes to go into the Peace Corps, where she will hone her language skills and later become a translator, with a focus on working with advocacy organizations, nongovernmental organizations or nonprofit organizations that center around helping people.

“We are so grateful that Rachael approached us about volunteering, and together we were able to create this opportunity. We look forward to her helping to attract other energetic and involved young adults who want to be part of our mission as an ambassador for our program,” said Courtney Williams, manager of volunteer and professional services at Compass Regional Hospice.

For more information about volunteering or using your skills to help people receive quality hospice care and grief support services in Queen Anne’s, Kent and Caroline counties, please contact Williams at 443-262-4112 or cwilliams@compassregionalhospice.org.

Compass Regional Hospice – Care on your terms

Compass Regional Hospice is a fully licensed, independent, community-based nonprofit organization certified by Medicare and the state of Maryland and accredited by the Joint Commission. Since 1985, Compass Regional Hospice has been dedicated to supporting people of all ages through the challenge of living with a life-limiting illness and learning to live following the death of a loved one. Today, the organization is a regional provider of hospice care and grief support in Queen Anne’s, Kent and Caroline counties. “Care on your terms” is the promise that guides staff and volunteers as they care for patients in private residences, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and the residential hospice centers in Centreville and Chestertown. Grief support services are offered to children, adults and families of patients who died under hospice care, as well as members of the community who are grieving the loss of a loved one, through The Hope and Healing Center. For more information about Compass Regional Hospice, visit compassregionalhospice.org.

Compass Regional Hospice CNA Receives Hospice Caregivers Award

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Paige Carroll, a certified nursing assistant with Compass Regional Hospice, is the most recent recipient of the Fellows, Helfenbein and Newnam Hospice Caregivers Award.

Carroll was nominated by a patient’s family member, to recognize her commitment to compassionate and personalized end‐of‐life care.

Each staff member is committed to the mission of Compass Regional Hospice, which is to provide “Care on your terms” to individuals, families and the community through comprehensive, professional and compassionate end‐of‐life care and grief support.

Carroll was singled out for the care she provided to the nominator’s loved one. She is involved with many aspects of a patient’s hospice care, including feeding, personal care, administering medication, assuring residents are comfortable and safe, and collaborating with team members to meet a resident’s plan of care. Carroll has been providing compassionate care to Compass Regional Hospice’s patients since March 2017.

L-R: Heather Guerieri, executive director, Compass Regional Hospice; Kirk Helfenbein of Fellows, Helfenbein and Newnam Funeral Home; and Paige Carroll, certified nursing assistant.

The Hospice Caregivers Award nominator wrote, “Paige is the epitome of dedication, compassion, selfless devotion, and generosity of heart.”

Carroll typically works out of the six-bed Hospice Center in Centreville. An upcoming expansion to the Hospice Center will bring the facility to 10 beds by next year.

“You knew the amazing level of care Paige gave by the degree of detail she would relay, and just by watching her in action at the center,” the nominator wrote. “She never waited until he (or we) asked for something, she watched and anticipated so she could meet his needs before he would even ask most times.”

The nominator said, most importantly, Carroll gave her time to their loved one: “stopping in his room and chatting with him often throughout her shifts.”

“As was fitting, it was Paige by his bedside when he passed, and so we find great peace knowing that at his most vulnerable time, he was not alone, and he knew he was with someone who truly loved him,” the nominator wrote.

The quarterly Fellows, Helfenbein and Newnam Hospice Caregivers Award is open to physicians, nurses, social workers, bereavement counselors, hospice aides, chaplains, administrative staff and volunteers of Compass Regional Hospice who care for patients in Queen Anne’s, Kent and Caroline counties.

When presenting the award to Carroll, Kirk Helfenbein told the staff of Compass Regional Hospice that 11 staff members were nominated during the last quarter.

To nominate a hospice caregiver, contact Fellows, Helfenbein and Newnam Funeral Home, 408 S. Liberty St., Centreville, at 410‐758‐1151 or info@fhnfuneralhome.com.

Compass Regional Hospice – Care on your terms

Compass Regional Hospice is a fully licensed, independent, community-based nonprofit organization certified by Medicare and the state of Maryland and accredited by the Joint Commission. Since 1985, Compass Regional Hospice has been dedicated to supporting people of all ages through the challenge of living with a life-limiting illness and learning to live following the death of a loved one. Today, the organization is a regional provider of hospice care and grief support in Queen Anne’s, Kent and Caroline counties. “Care on your terms” is the promise that guides staff and volunteers as they care for patients in private residences, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and the residential hospice centers in Centreville and Chestertown. Grief support services are offered to children, adults and families of patients who died under hospice care, as well as members of the community who are grieving the loss of a loved one, through The Hope and Healing Center. For more information about Compass Regional Hospice, visit compassregionalhospice.org.

UM SRH Implements New Electronic Health Record System

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University of Maryland Shore Regional Health’s continuing commitment to improve the patient experience attains another milestone in December when the entire health care network transitions its medical records system to Portfolio, a state of the art electronic medical health record system.

Set to “go live” on December 2, Portfolio will enhance clinical decision making and collaboration throughout UM Shore Regional Health by providing physicians, nursing and other clinicians with timely, comprehensive medical information that is secure, standardized, and easily shared by colleagues to better coordinate care.  This coordination includes those outside of the UMMS network, integrating information from nearly every touchpoint of a patient’s care.

“Portfolio will improve patient safety and outcomes across Shore Regional Health and everywhere within the University of Maryland Medical System,” says William Huffner, MD, chief medical officer and senior vice president, Medical Affairs. “The new system provides exceptional service to the patients and clinical staff, creating a better experience for everyone.”

According to Dr. Huffner, clinicians and support staff in UM SRH locations throughout the five county region have dedicated months to training and education on the new system and are prepared for the transition. “As with any major information technology change such as this, however, patients and visitors may experience a slight wait as staff familiarize themselves with all aspect of the system.

“Using Portfolio provides a common foundation for patients to access and engage with all clinical programs, providers and services at Shore Regional Health and the University of Maryland Medical System,” says Ruth Ann Jones, chief nursing officer and senior vice president, Nursing and Patient Care Services. “An additional benefit of Portfolio is that it eliminates the need for patients to register multiple times and allows the patient to be the keeper of his or her overall health record from encounters at different entities within UMMS.”

Many people are already familiar with Portfolio, which is in use now at most physician and provider offices affiliated with UM Shore Regional Health as well as other health systems. Portfolio, created by Epic Systems Corporation, is the one of the most widely used electronic medical records systems in the U.S. and around the world.

About UM Shore Regional Health: As part of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), University of Maryland Shore Regional Health is the principal provider of comprehensive health care services for more than 170,000 residents of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. UM Shore Regional Health’s team of more than 2,600 employees, medical staff, board members and volunteers work with various community partners to fulfill the organization’s mission of Creating Healthier Communities Together.