Miguel Carrasquillo, whose horrific suffering from brain cancer prompted him to record a bilingual video for Compassion & Choices urging lawmakers nationwide to give terminally ill adults the option of medical aid in dying, died Sunday in his native Puerto Rico. He was 35.
A Chicago resident, Miguel was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive, deadly brain tumor, in 2012. Despite bravely enduring excruciatingly painful treatments to try to cure his cancer, it spread throughout his body. In April 2015, doctors estimated Miguel had a year to live. In recent months, doctors told Miguel the tumor was growing about an inch a week.
In March, 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 Illinois and his native Puerto Rico, to pass aid-in-dying bills.
“And before I go on, I just want to tell you guys to keep fighting for the legacy of end of life because we don’t have nothing, just suffering and pain because what other options [do] we have? If we don’t fight for that [the option of medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults], nobody cares about it. We need to keep fighting and fighting until somebody listens to us.”
Before he died, Miguel spoke with pride as he referred to himself as the “Latino Brittany Maynard.” Maynard also was a young terminally ill person with brain cancer, who worked to get aid-in-dying legislation passed in California after moving to Oregon in 2014 at age 29 to use its death-with-dignity law. Thanks in large part to Compassion & Choices’ partnership with Brittany Maynard and her Latino husband, Dan Diaz, California enacted aid-in-dying legislation that takes effect on June 9.
“I don’t have the resources that Brittany had to move to a state like California,” he said. “I have to live and die with this horrible pain, seizures and electric shocks.”
Medical aid in dying allows terminally ill adults to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to ingest to die peacefully if their end-of-life suffering becomes unbearable. Unfortunately for Miguel, aid in dying is not an authorized option in Illinois or in his native Puerto Rico, where his Catholic parents cared for him at the end of his life.
“It is unjust that Miguel had to endure needless suffering at the end of his life,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney who coauthored Oregon’s death-with-dignity law after working as an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years. “We are heartbroken by the loss of this courageous young man who did so much for terminally ill people even as he endured horrific pain. We are eternally grateful for Miguel’s efforts to expand end-of-life options for Latinos and other Americans.”
Between agonizing headaches, electric shocks and convulsions, Miguel did interviews advocating for medical aid in dying with People en Espanol, La Opinión, El Diario NY, Univision and Telemundo. The Huffington Post and The Chicago Tribune also published op-eds authored by Miguel. He gave his last interview to Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, which aired May 29.
Miguel’s mother, Nilsa Centeno, pledged to continue her son’s legacy by working to fulfill his last wish.
“I promised my son that I would not stay quiet about the need for the option of medical aid in dying,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to suffer needlessly, as Miguel and our family had to.”
Dan Diaz, Brittany Maynard’s widower, recalled speaking with Miguel and Nilsa about his fear of dying in pain and his desire to move to California to access the End of Life Option Act.
“Miguel endured every horror that Brittany feared most,” Diaz said. “Like Brittany, Miguel was a true champion for the full range of end-of-life options. No one should be forced to endure a horrific dying process as Miguel did.”
Miguel was born in Chicago, Illinois, on Nov. 18, 1980. He was a former chef in Chicago and New York. He is survived by his mother, Nilsa, and father, Miguel Carrasquillo Sr.; and two sisters, Aslin and Nilsa; two nieces and two nephews.