Herb Hoffman provided Compassion & Choices his story in February of 2022. On February 23, 2022, Herb testified in support of Connecticut’s medical aid-in-dying bill. On March 4, 2022, Herb ingested his aid-in-dying prescription and passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones – that same day, the Connecticut Public Health Committee advanced the bill in a 22-9 vote.
Advocating for medical aid in dying is personal for me. My daughter, Kim Hoffman, was a fervent advocate who dedicated her last years to fighting for this option in Connecticut. Woefully, she died on January 18, 2022 without the peaceful option she championed.
Though I am a decades-long supporter of medical aid in dying, this year will be my first time testifying. Both Kim and I were living with cancer at the same time, taking each other to our appointments. My cancer has metastasized and my liver is covered with metastases. Kim understood the outcome that lay ahead for both of us.
People often do not understand the extent of the pain and suffering from cancer, as you cannot always see it. Most people are lucky enough to not experience it as closely as I have.
I have an intimate experience with cancer – my own, Kim’s, and my wife’s. Kim suffered greatly throughout her nearly nine-year battle with ovarian cancer, and experienced significant suffering in her last days. My wife, Ludmila, also suffered immensely from cancer, and died a brutally slow and painful death. In the end, Ludmila begged to be allowed to die.
I want to avoid unnecessary pain and, to the extent possible, a foggy brain. I want to be present to say goodbye to my loved ones and I want to stay sharp until the very end. A lifelong activist, I want to continue participating in organizations, like Veterans for Peace, that I have been a member of for many years; contributing in lively discussions with friends; and reading and writing on matters that are important to me.
A few weeks ago, I moved from Connecticut to California to have the support of my son as my cancer continues to progress. Although medical aid in dying was not the reason for my move, it is a welcome benefit. Through my son, I found a doctor willing to support my decision to obtain an aid-in-dying prescription.
In contrast to Kim’s experience, I have the peace of mind that a gentle death is within my reach. Kim was robbed of significant moments with her loved ones because of the heartbreaking anxiety around unnecessary and intense suffering. Had she been allowed the freedom to determine when she had endured enough, she could have avoided the agony she feared.
Kim did not have freedom of choice. I do. I have obtained my aid-in-dying prescription. I have the freedom to choose to fill the prescription. I have the freedom to take the prescription. I also have the freedom to not take it. These are my choices. These are choices that Kim should have been allowed. These are choices that no one should have the right to take away from a terminally ill, mentally capable adult.
Along with this peace of mind, California’s recent improvement to their law, decreasing their waiting period from 15 days to 48 hours means that I can have the medication in hand sooner. This has bought me 13 additional days of clarity around my decision.
A week before she died, Kim expressed to me for the first time with lucidity that she wanted to die and she was ready. She was desperate for her suffering to end and there was nothing she could do about it. It was gut-wrenching. Kim hungered for her ability to make her own decision.
In honor of Kim and the countless others who have endured unnecessary suffering, who desperately wanted another option, I implore Connecticut lawmakers to make medical aid in dying available to Connecticut’s terminally ill residents.