Harlan Seymour is the widower, and Mavis Prall-Cohen is the sister, of California End of Life Option Act advocate Jennifer Glass. She died of lung cancer on August 11, 2015, at her San Mateo home by utilizing palliative sedation. The procedure involved medicating her into a coma until she died five long days later.
Jennifer would have preferred the option of medical aid in dying, to be in possession of, near the end of her life, a doctor’s prescription for medication that would allow her, when she was ready, to die peacefully and quickly. Jennifer’s advocacy for medical aid in dying during the last 17 months of her life eventually paid off. Two months after her death, on October 5, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed the End of Life Option Act.
What is the one thing our society can do to improve end-of-life care for all of us?
Our Jennifer thought deeply about this question during the last two and a half years of her life following her diagnosis of advanced cancer. Here are Jennifer’s own words from a story she wrote published by The Huffington Post on March 10, 2015: I Have Cancer — and I Want the Option to Die on My Terms
“One of the most debilitating things about life-threatening illness is the fear that comes with it. Fear because so much is out of your control.
“If you can take fear out of the equation, even a little bit, you can think more clearly, make better decisions, and — with luck — find a path to peace.”
We as a society should follow Jennifer’s lead in fearing less and changing our culture to allow individuals to take control of their own end-of-life care. As Jennifer said:
“I’m doing everything I can to extend my life.
“No one should have the right to prolong my death.”
How would ensuring terminally ill people control their end-of-life care improve it?
Jennifer advocated for medical aid-in-dying laws because she passionately believed all terminally ill adults should have this option, so they can pass peacefully at home, surrounded by their loved ones, and avoid an agonizing, prolonged death.
“I don’t want to drown in my own lung fluid, under cold, hospital lights.”
“My home is where I feel safe.
“It’s where we have become a family.
“My home is where I want to die.”
Tragically, California’s End of Life Option Act did not take effect until June 9, 2016, less than a year after Jennifer’s needlessly painful and traumatic death. Medical aid in dying is an essential tool in the end-of-life care toolkit that should be integrated with hospice and palliative care. In fact, states that have authorized medical aid in dying have earlier and more frequent utilization of hospice and palliative care.
How would improving end-of-life care benefit terminally ill people?
Terminally ill adults who have the option of medical aid in dying get a great sense of relief that enables them to live their remaining days without fearing they will die in agony and traumatize their loved ones.
“There would be great comfort in knowing that I could legally request and receive a prescription for aid-in-dying medication that I could take to end my life peacefully, at home, if my suffering becomes unbearable.
“Having this option would allow me to live more joyfully in whatever time I have left.”