Bhaktivedanta Hospice, Vrindavan, India
Bhaktivedanta Hospice helps patients think of God at the time of death, thus offering a permanent solution to the problems of life. It provides the best of hospice care on every level—physical, emotional, and spiritual—for both the patients and their loved ones.
As Padmanabha Goswami stated at the hospice opening, referring to the inability of doctors in general to save patients from the clutches of death, “What can these doctors do? Here all the medical services will come in a spiritual atmosphere. Here the doctors will give the pills with hari-nama. They will give injections with hari-nama.” The initial vision for the hospice was that it would care for Srila Prabhupada’s followers who had given their lives in his service, but as the project developed, the team concluded that the facility could and should also serve the Vraja-vasis.
Bhaktivedanta Hospice is committed to letting patients decide how they want to spend their last days—and to what extent they want medical interventions to alleviate pain or extend life but which may disturb their consciousness or impede their ability to just think about Krishna, chant and hear about Krishna, and have loving exchanges with devotees and family members. A patient may decide, “I don’t want chemo,” “I don’t want radiation,” “I don’t want all these tubes in me” or “I don’t want to go to the hospital; I just want to let my life take its natural course, and remember Krishna and reciprocate with the ones I love.” Friends, family members, and well-wishers often want their loved ones to stay longer, but ultimately it is not for us to decide or try to impose our will upon the patients.
Sometimes we can do them a better service by just getting out of their way. The Bhaktivedanta Hospice staff and administration is sensitive to the wide range of patients’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and desires.
Bhaktivedanta Hospice is housed in a three-story building nestled in the remnants of a grove, which was known as Giriraj Bhag (Giriraj’s garden)—a short walk from the Krishna-Balaram temple. The ground floor includes a large reception area presided over by a murti (sculpted form) of Srila Prabhupada, a temple room, consulting rooms, a pharmacy, and a conference room. Large French windows open onto the garden, where pink sandstone benches invite patients and visitors to sit in the shade of the centuries-old trees. There are quarters for resident doctors, nurses, and spiritual counselors in a separate wing, accessed through a garden entrance.
The second and third floors of the hospice are reserved for patients. Each floor has a kitchen; a dining area; a “Back-to-Godhead” room, where patients are brought in their final hours; and eight private rooms, each with a kitchenette and a bathroom large enough to accommodate the patient’s bed, and each measuring 600 sq. ft.—more than enough room for both the patients and caregivers to live comfortably. Some of the rooms have additional features, such as air conditioning, audio systems, desks, chairs, sofas, and refrigerators. Large bay windows in the private and Back-to-Godhead rooms provide beautiful views of the trees of Raman Reti.
There are charges for some medicines and for oxygen, pathology tests, and ambulance services, but patients who cannot afford a private room can stay in one of two general (three-bed) wards free of charge, and as stated by the hospice’s deputy-director, “Generous discounts are given to all genuinely poor patients, and no one has ever been turned away because of not having money to pay for the hospice services.” All patients receive free meals (prasada). (For more information, go to www.bhaktivedantahospice.org.)