On the birthday of perhaps our most recognized advocate, Brittany Maynard, we’d like to honor others who have stood with us and made an indelible mark on this movement. Of course we can’t tell every story in this email, but the following incredible advocates represent the spirit of so many who have supported our mission as they neared death.
Those were 69-year-old Bob Stone’s last words to his loved ones gathered in his Silverlake, California, home in what was a beautiful and intentional celebration of his life. He was the first Kaiser Permanente patient in Los Angeles to obtain a medical aid in dying prescription having entered hospice on June 9, the day the law went into effect. Bob made it a point to get the paperwork done as soon as possible to ensure peace of mind in his final days.
Bob was so pleased with the ease of the process that he graciously allowed the Los Angeles Times to profile his choice to end his life “fully, thankfully and joyfully.”
Naomi Sichler, 33, also from Los Angeles, placed great importance on accessing aid in dying. Although she did not take the medication, it was a relief to know she could if her suffering became too great.
Naomi died peacefully at home surrounded by loved ones. Said her husband, Mike Scott, “Although Naomi chose not to take the aid-in-dying medication, the relief it brought her to know it was an option is something all terminally ill patients should be able to feel.”
Kristy Allan of Placerville was one of the earliest to benefit from California’s law and fill a medical aid-in-dying prescription, and she too was willing to discuss her decision, with the New York Times. It’s hard to overstate the importance of advocates like Kristy sharing these most private moments with the world.
Jay Kallio campaigned passionately for medical aid-in-dying legislation in his home state of New York. Racing against the clock and his illness, terminal lung cancer, Jay fought valiantly to be able end his life legally and on his own terms if his suffering became unbearable. Shortly before his death he recorded a video describing the suffering he hoped to avoid.
Sadly for Jay and many others like him, he died in September almost exactly as he describes without the option of medical aid in dying. This is not how Jay wanted things to end, and we pledge to see his work in New York through in the near future.
Also from New York, NYU professor of politics Youssef Cohen died at the age of 68 from mesothelioma. Just before, he recorded this video to share with other New Yorkers.
Jay and Youssef were honored as part of C&C’s Day of the Dead event in New York along with other New Yorkers who died as they fought for medical aid in dying laws.
John Minor was a retired psychologist from Manhattan Beach, California. In John’s final days, he penned a passionate op-ed detailing his personal and professional views on medical aid in dying, and called particular attention to the distinction between the practice and suicide.
John, who was able to obtain and fill his prescription under California’s End of Life Option Act, left his family, who had gathered around a makeshift bed in his favorite room, with these words: “Thanks for letting me sleep up here.”
Reflecting on this statement, John’s daughter Jackie said, “I couldn’t see it at the time, but a friend pointed out that his words were actually symbolic of us supporting him throughout his whole journey and seeing him to the end in the manner he wanted. We will be forever grateful that our dad’s wishes were able to be honored, and it was his hope as well as ours that his story may help to pave the way for those to come who want that ultimate choice as well.” He died with this quote pictured here in his line of sight, and it is both a testament to his struggle in his last days to contribute his insights and expertise to the fight for end-of- life options and a beautiful reminder to us all.
Jim Kinhan was known as “Mr. Jim” to his many fellow New Hampshire residents whose lives he touched as a state legislator and trained clinical social worker.
Three years ago, Jim was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. Instead of opting for aggressive treatment, Jim sought palliative therapies that afforded him the highest quality of life as he continued pursuing travel, golf and volunteerism. In fact, Jim was able to complete a 100-mile walk across England, and he even played a round of golf the week before he died.
In an incredible turn of events, Jim had the chance to ask then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton how she would advance conversations about end-of-life choice, imparting a thoughtful and compassionate response.
Jim appreciated that reply, and even as his condition worsened, he continued to work closely with New Hampshire lawmakers to introduce aid-in-dying legislation in New Hampshire.
Although Jim could not access medical aid in dying, he died shortly after choosing to voluntarily stop eating and drinking (VSED), with his family gathered beside him singing his favorite song, “What a Wonderful World.”
Thanks in large part to Jim’s efforts, Concord Senator Dan Feltes plans to file legislation next year to advance end-of-life options.
Miguel Carrasquillo, a former chef in Chicago and New York, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor at the young age of 30. Miguel spent years enduring painful procedures to try to cure his cancer. After doctors told him that his condition was terminal, he moved back from his home in Chicago to his native Puerto Rico to spend his final days with his family.
Miguel became Compassion & Choices’ first terminally ill, Latino advocate for medical aid in dying when he recorded videos in English and in Spanish to urge legislators in U.S. states and territories, including his native Puerto Rico, to pass medical aid-in-dying legislation. He proudly referred to himself as the “Latino Brittany Maynard.”
Miguel accomplished so much at the end of his life by challenging taboos surrounding death — and by extension, medical aid in dying — that persist within the Latino culture. He urged his community, and the entire nation, to speak openly to their doctors about the kind of care they want at the end of life.
Miguel died on June 5 in Puerto Rico. He was only 35 years old.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about these amazing late advocates. Hopefully they will serve to inspire your advocacy the way they inspire the work we do at C&C each and every day. This is a movement about helping people — real people like the ones you just read about.
You can find more inspiring stories from advocates on our storyteller’s page.
If you have a personal experience dealing with terminal illness or end-of-life advocacy work, please share it with us. You never know which story will be the next to shape the movement. Click here to tell your story today.