Friday, June 26, 2015

Til death do us part

I played the organ for the memorial service of a good friend today.  While funeral services can be very sad and heartbreaking, that was not the case in this particular situation.

Jan, her husband, her kids and her grandchildren were all aware that her health was rapidly fading.  Her last days were beautiful because

            she had medical experts who kept her apprised as to what was happening
            she didn’t have to worry about excessive pain, thanks to hospice
            she was blessed to have compassionate professionals taking care of her needs
            she was residing in a warm, pleasant, comfortable atmosphere
            she was surrounded by family right down to her last living moments.

As I heard about this and thought about this during the service this morning, I must confess that my mind began to wander.  Because of my line of work---interacting with Michigan prisoners on a daily basis---my thoughts often drift to the plight of inmates.  Maybe you weren’t aware of this, but they are not much different from you and me and Jan.  They get sick in prison, too.  And while we try to obtain compassionate releases for the terminally ill so that they be afforded the same treatment that Jan received, we often fail.  In that case, they die in prison.  And the conditions just aren’t the same.

-Doctors may refuse to answer their questions, saying that’s not why they get paid.
-Healthcare may choose to deny pain meds if they’re not having a good day.          
-Compassionate professionals might be hard to find.
-The cold and impersonal infirmary isn’t remotely akin to “a comfortable atmosphere.
-It takes special permission to get a bedside visit for the terminally ill.  Ain’t no way that    the dying prisoner is going to be surrounded by family at the final moments of life.

One wife of a dying prisoner, with whom we worked, couldn’t even find her husband for two days just before his death…and no one would tell her!

For the past two years HFP has pressed for three things:  More compassionate releases for the terminally ill, more hospice-type care for those who are not released, and improved family visitation for the dying.

Our continued comments on these subjects, along with the repeated complaints of family members of dying inmates, seem to be falling on deaf ears.  That won’t happen if you get involved and place your suggestions before elected officials.  Do you know the names of your State Representative and your State Senator?  Contact them, as well as the Governor’s office.  

Then join us in a two-pronged prayer, for improvements in the system, and for peace for those who are dying behind bars.

Otto and Joe and Tricia and Fran deserve no less than Jan received.

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