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“I Want to Live Up Until I Can’t”

Amy Berman, diagnosed with stage IV terminal cancer four and a half years ago, insists she has nothing to complain about. “I’m seriously ill, and I’m seriously having fun.” She spoke at The Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment’s (UMT) sixth policy luncheon on April 14, by all appearances in radiant health.

She detailed her uncommon choice to forego the harsh – and ultimately futile – full-bore approach typically assigned a person with her diagnosis. Instead she opted for treatments that would help preserve her quality of life. Treatments whose administration would add health problems and diminish her quality of life “didn’t fit with my values. I chose to feel as well as possible for as long as possible,” she says, terming her palliative strategy “the Niagara Falls trajectory: I want to feel good, good, good, and then drop off the cliff.”

As both an informed, empowered patient and an RN with a long background in healthcare, Berman offered great insight to the collaborators in attendance. She affirmed one of the 19-member coalition’s strategies: to financially disincentivize any medical treatment without first determining an individual’s preferences and honoring them.  Her story contributes to a growing conversation around patient empowerment and overtreatment that recently includes reintroduction of Senator Mark Warner’s (D-VA) bill that would make end-of-life planning a Medicare benefit.

Watch a video of Amy Berman’s inspiring presentation and learn more about The Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment here.