Hospice answers Hemlock accusation

Winthrop Thies, founder and president of the Hemlock Society of New Jersey in Maplewood, was detained by Union County authorities in September at the Westfield, NJ, home of a terminally ill cancer patient who, Thies said, was planning "self-deliverance." Thies apparently intended to test the constitutionality of a 30-year-old state law against aiding in suicide.

Officers later confiscated the woman’s drugs before suicide could be attempted. A Hemlock press release claims that the officers then "forced her" to go into Father Hudson’s House, a residential hospice facility operated by Center for Hope Hospice in Linden, NJ. The hospice’s director, Peggy Coloney, in a Labor Day interview with Don Pendley, president of the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Association, hotly disputed that any patient had ever been forced into the facility. A spokesperson for the Union County Prosecutor’s office confirmed that the terminally ill woman "chose hospice of her own volition."

"The largest problem here is the apparent misrepresentation of how the woman entered hospice," Pendley tells Hospice Management Advisor. "Clearly, Hemlock wanted to create a test case. The woman had requested confidentiality, and Hemlock violated that request," he asserts.