Compassion & Choices today released new bilingual videos featuring deceased Latino advocate Miguel Carrasquillo, his mother and Mexican actor Mauricio Ochmann. The videos commemorate the first anniversary of Miguel’s horrific death to brain cancer and demonstrate the need for medical aid in dying.
A native Puerto Rican, Miguel was realizing his dream as a chef in Chicago after living in New York. In 2012, at age 31, doctors diagnosed him with an aggressive and deadly brain tumor called glioblastoma multiforme. Miguel underwent agonizingly painful treatments to try to cure the cancer, but it continued to spread throughout his body.
Miguel, 35, died on June 5, 2016, but not the way he so desperately wanted… peacefully and without suffering. Miguel’s death occurred four days before the End of Life Option Act went into effect in California. Data and personal stories compiled by Compassion & Choices show the law is working very well, just as the state legislature intended.
“Latino support for medical aid in dying has dramatically increased to 69 percent in the United States since Miguel advocated for this end-of-life option,” said Patricia A. González-Portillo, national Latino communications director for Compassion & Choices.”More states with large Latino populations have passed or introduced legislation authorizing medical aid in dying, and more Latino lawmakers are sponsoring bills nationwide.”
Miguel was proud to refer to himself as the ‘Latino Brittany Maynard” after he was inspired by the 29-year old Californian with a terminal brain cancer who moved to Oregon to access its Death With Dignity Act in 2014. Miguel and Brittany had the same type of brain cancer.
Since Miguel’s death, six states with large Latino populations have passed or introduced laws to authorize medical aid in dying: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York. Latino lawmakers are sponsors of legislation in four of those states.
In his final weeks, Miguel became a voice for Latinos when his agonizing suffering from terminal brain cancer prompted him to record the first videos in both English and in Spanish to urge lawmakers across the country to pass medical aid-in-dying laws, including in his former home states of New York and Illinois, and native Puerto Rico. To view the new video in English CLICK HERE and in Spanish, CLICK HERE.
“Everyday we have to deal with pain…Headaches, back pains, electric shock all over your body, convulsions, seizures,” Miguel says in the video. “I‘m spending the last months of my life…because people need to know that you have the option of that. I want the option to choose how I want to die.”
Miguel became a household name for journalists overnight when his story was featured in PeopleenEspañol.com. He also spoke to television reporters from Spanish-language television networks Telemundo and Univision. He gave what would become his last interview to Univision anchor Jorge Ramos.
“Latinos identified with Miguel because he was one of us,” said Compassion & Choices advocate and Mexican telenovela actor and film star Mauricio Ochmann, known as “Chema Venegas” in the popular Telemundo telenovelas El Chema and El Señor de los Cielos. “We saw Miguel as a son, an uncle. We saw him as our cousin, our brother. Latinos saw Miguel as our friend … And we came forward in support.”
Nilsa Centeno, Miguel’s mother, spoke about her initial hesitation to support the option of medical aid in dying: “My son … will be gone soon in one way or the other … it’s what he really wants, and I respect that,” she says in the video. “I was raised to know that God gives life and God takes life. But after seeing what my son went through, I learned that is not the case. Miguel educated me. If you have a terminal illness …That person should be allowed to do what they want with their life. My son did not have the privilege to die that way.”
In July 2014, 61 percent of California Latinos supported passing a medical aid-in-dying law, according to a Goodwin Simon Strategic Research poll. One year later, support among California Latinos for this end-of-life option rose to 75 percent in August 2015, one month before the California Legislature passed the End of Life Option Act in September.
Thanks to the advocacy of Latinos like Dan Díaz’s wife, Brittany Maynard, Dr. Robert Olvera and Miguel Carrasquillo 69 percent of Hispanics nationwide support medical aid in dying, according to a fall 2016 online survey by LifeWay Research. In addition, when Colorado voters passed the End-of-Life Options Act in November, both men and women, Hispanics and whites, and people with and without college degrees said they backed the proposal, according to exit polling conducted for The Associated Press and television networks in Colorado.
“It is a taboo about Latinos … to talk about that option because people are scared of what other people are going to say, are they going to tell,” Miguel says in the video. “I’m doing this because People need to know that you … can make your own decision how you want to live the days of your life.”