By Katie Wingo
With deep sadness, Compassion & Choices bid farewell to our close friend and ally, Jennifer Glass, on Aug. 11. She worked tirelessly to pass California’s End of Life Option Act until she died from stage IV cancer. Unfortunately, the California legislature did not pass the bill in time for Jennifer to utilize the end-of-life option she so tenaciously fought for: medical aid in dying. Her hometown newspaper, The San Mateo Daily Journal, published a touching story about her advocacy work.
The paper interviewed her husband, Harlan Seymour, and her sister, Mavis Prall, about Jennifer’s end-of-life experience. She opted for palliative sedation. The process involves medicating the person into a coma, then withholding liquids and nutrients until death occurs. Opponents of the End of Life Option Act often claim that medical aid in dying is an unnecessary option for dying patients who have access to proper palliative care, and if necessary, palliative sedation. But Jennifer’s family said palliative sedation was not as peaceful an option for her.
“As her lungs filled with fluid making breathing difficult and her pain increased, [Jennifer] opted to undergo palliative sedation.
“It took her more than five days to die, a disheartening time marked by her awakening from the coma in a panic one evening,” Seymour said.
“By the time she started palliative sedation, she was in so much pain, she really couldn’t say goodbye to people. If there was an end-of-life option [of medical aid in dying], she could have started earlier, even just one day, she could have said goodbye to her loved ones and had a quiet death. Palliative sedation is really just a slow motion version of what the end-of-life option [of medical aid in dying] offers. Instead of a seven-day, dragged-out death in a coma, it’s a death that could just last a few hours and allows for a better ending with one’s family … It would have been a great comfort to her if she had the choice to end her life in a faster manner. She would have suffered less.”
Prall also spoke about her sister’s experience, saying in the C&C news release:
“She did not want her loved ones to have to watch the life drain from her over a five-day period, nor to watch her lose all dignity as her body slowly shut down. Members of the California Legislature should be aware that their inaction has painful consequences. I urge them to pass the End-of-Life Option Act this year.”
C&C’s California Campaign Director Toni Broaddus addressed the legislature’s inaction in the San Mateo Daily Journal story:
“With Jennifer, [palliative sedation] did not work as effectively … It’s really important for people to understand that in reality, palliative sedation does not work for everyone and those folks need another option. Medical aid in dying is that option.”
We are grateful we got the chance to fight alongside Jennifer and learn from her experience, and vow to continue fighting in her honor for passage of California’s End of Life Option Act to provide relief to other terminally ill Californians.
You can read the full San Mateo Daily Journal article by clicking here.