All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The system needs a heart, Part Two

It’s easy to point fingers, especially during a time of grief.

David, Michigan prisoner, is with his friend Jesus now. His parents were not permitted to be at his side as he passed from here to there.

Even though he was still in a coma and unresponsive, a doctor determined that there was some improvement. Based on that report, a prison warden had no alternative but to terminate the visitation rights of David’s parents in his final hours. They were sent home. Department policy. A top official in Lansing explained it this way: MDOC only allows visits at outside hospitals when the prisoner is deemed critical and unlikely to survive by the treating physician.

It is in that particular section of the Visitation Policy where we desire modification. In the wake of this sad story, seeking change seems more productive than placing blame.

We know, for example, that prison visits are a good thing. A study has found that inmates who were visited were 13 percent less likely to be convicted of a felony in the future and 25 percent less likely to return to prison for a technical violation.

Likewise, hospital visits can be beneficial. Daily Mail Reporter Angela Epstein writes: “Though it might seem like a chore to you, visiting a sick friend or relation in the hospital really could make a difference to their health. Recent research has shown it’s what your visit does to their brain that helps.

Says medical expert, Dr. John Mulder: Having been involved in the practice of hospice and palliative medicine for over 30 years, I am intimately familiar with the needs of both patients and families when death is imminent.  Peace, comfort, reconciliation, and healing can occur in those bedside moments when life is coming to a close.  I am concerned with any policy that stands in the way of this important moment of closure for families, whether intentional or inadvertent. 

He concludes with this important statement, which underscores our request:

Prognostication is an inexact science.  As physicians, we may not fully appreciate how close someone is to death, or if they might even possibly recover.  But we can identify how sick they are at any given moment.  It is in that moment that physicians strive to bring every available option to the patient to facilitate the best chance for improvement and recovery.  And in that circumstance, family can be the critical, positive factor.  

Our goal is simply to bring about change. We’ll be seeking 1), a slight modification in policy so that, even if death is not imminent, visitation by loved ones could still be permitted; and 2), if a decision by a medical practitioner eliminates visitation, there might be some avenue of appeal, not unlike seeking a second opinion.

May God’s grace rest on seriously ill prisoners and their loved ones, as well as medical caregivers, prison staffers, and those of us advocating on their behalf.

Nothing is simple.

1 comment:

Bob Bulten said...

Super, Doug. Thanks for taking a stand and a "lead" in this effort.