Health care workers of every stripe should read Michael Petit’s letter to the editor (Maine Sunday Telegram, Oct. 26) about his mother’s sad demise in a hospice center.

Petit was commissioner of human services under Gov. Joe Brennan, and is no stranger to the health care system. That this experienced and learned gentleman was blindsided and disappointed by the system of care that ignores family wishes is a lesson to us all.

Webster’s Dictionary defines hospice as “lodging for travelers, young persons, or the underprivileged especially when maintained by a religious order.”

I think of that definition when I think of hospice. Implied are the concepts of caring, shelter, spirituality, warmth, friendship, nurturing – the things that we as human beings seek and find important in our lives – even more so as we reach the end of our lives, or when we can see the end of our lives from where we are.

My good friend Wayne Brooks said before he died that “a living will was something that you had to do to protect yourself from the medical establishment.”

My experience both as someone with a working knowledge of the health care system and holder of a medical and financial power of attorney for my father taught me the truth of that statement. Despite placement of those documents in my father’s hospital medical chart and notice from me that he declined permission for a procedure, I only inadvertently discovered that it was scheduled anyway. With a great deal of difficulty and angry discussion with his physician the order was canceled.

It should not be thus. When the health care system ignores the wishes of the patient or his lawful representative, we don’t have a health care system – we have a charnel house.

Ronald G. Thurston