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Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Practioners of palliative care, better known as hospice or “end-of-life” care, have stumbled upon a remarkable discovery. It seems that many terminally ill patients are finding it much easier to accept their fates after watching a few episodes of MTV’s smash hit “Jersey Shore.” The show, which features six young Italian-Americans in various stages of undress sharing a house for the summer, has been hugely popular with a younger audience since it’s inception, but it now seems to have found a new, much older audience.

“You must understand,” said Dr. Daniel Mifsud, a doctor at the Edgar J. Fishbein Hospice in Secaucus, New Jersey, “that for these people, most of whom have faced a long and arduous battle with their illnesses, it is often difficult for them to accept the fact that there is little left to be done. Our goal here at hospice is to make their remaining days as comfortable as possible, both for the patients themselves and their families.”

But it was only recently that members of Dr. Mifsud’s staff noticed a strange trend. It seems that once the patients watched a couple of episodes of the hit show, they found a strange inner peace, and often died, quietly and comfortably, not long afterward. “I was watching an episode on the nurse’s station TV late one night,” explained Carol Mannion, a nurse practitioner on Dr. Mifsud’s staff, “and an older gentleman could see the TV from his room. He was a cranky old fellow, very bitter about his fate, but he immediately asked me what channel the show was on. I put it on for him, and he watched two episodes back-to-back. He died about ten minutes later, with a strange smile on his face.”

Floyd DiMarco, whose mother, Charlotte, was nearing the end of a long battle with stomach cancer and was also a patient at the Fishbein Hospice, noticed a similar phenomenon during Charlotte’s final days. “The first two months that Mom was there, she pretty much had that morphine drip going constantly,” he said. Drifting in and out of consciousness, she was largely oblivious to the presence of her son and daughter-in-law, until she overheard them discussing the show one evening. “Out of nowhere, she became more alert than she had been in months. She opened her eyes, and asked us to put MTV on.” Coincidentally, it was the July 4th holiday weekend, and the network happened to be running a “Jersey Shore” marathon. “See, Mom was a fighter. She’d been sick for years, and resisted the idea of palliative care with whatever strength she had left. But once she got a load of Snooky and ‘The Situation,’ she suddenly came to grips with her plight.” She died shortly thereafter, but not before assuring her son that she was at peace, and ready for the inevitable end. “This may sound strange,” DiMarco said, “but I think she was almost relieved. It’s certainly helped me through the grieving process to know that Mom died peacefully, if not willingly.”

The comfort provided by palliative care professionals, while undoubtedly of great value to patients and their families, is unfortunately also somewhat costly, and beyond the means of those who are either uninsured or have plans which do not provide for end-of-life care. But these findings, as pointed out by Bill Cameron, an executive with EmblemHealth of New York, the state’s largest health insurance provider, may enable some families who may not be able to afford palliative care to ease the suffering of a loved one’s final days, nonetheless. “It’s too early to say for certain,” said Cameron, “but at this point, I’d say ‘Screw Hospice.’ Just prop the old geezer in front of the TV, pop in the Season One DVD, and make sure your suits are clean, because it won’t take long.”
DD (Vic Venom reporting)

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