Compassion & Choices, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit
organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life, today responded
to Tuesday’s tragic death by asphyxia of an elderly woman in San Marcos, California.
Complete facts about this tragedy have not come to light, but what we know fits an
unfortunately common pattern. Too often elderly people who know of no other options turn
in desperation to a loved one for covert help in ending their lives.
Many elders see little choice as illness advances and bodily functions deteriorate. Yet
options always exist that are preferable to violence and premature death. Death remains a
taboo subject in our society, so elders feel they cannot speak openly about situations where
they might deem death preferable to a deteriorating and declining quality of life.
“No one, no matter what their condition, should feel they have to resort to violence when
confronting advanced illness,” said Dr. Judy Epstein, Director of Consultation for
Compassion & Choices. “Patients and their caregivers need to feel safe talking about
unbearable symptoms and their feelings of desperation.”
People in every state have many choices as they approach the end of life, if they contact a
knowledgeable and sympathetic listener. “The fact is that an honest conversation can often
prevent a tragedy,” said Dr. Epstein. “by leading to respite care, hospice, pain control,
counseling or other forms of support.”
Since 1993, Compassion & Choices’ End-of-Life Consultation program has served
thousands of clients, helping them find alternatives to violence. Peaceful, gentle means
always exist to end life in a way that honors the life lived. The purpose of Compassion &
Choices’ End-of-Life Consultation program is to ensure excellent end-of-life care and, if
that care does not relieve unbearable suffering, provide information on a client’s options for
a peaceful, dignified death. Individuals seeking information about end-of-life decisions can
access Compassion & Choices End-of-Life Consultation service by calling 1-800-247-7421.
For more information please visit www.compassionandchoices.org.