End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Posts TaggedAid in Dying

Aid-in-Dying Supporters Vow to Help Hawaii’s Terminally Ill

by Lara Yamada
KITV News
November 12, 2012

“In the end of February, it was discovered I had kidney cancer,” said hospice care worker Dorothy Haden, who has stage four cancer.

“I tried to live my life with dignity, and I do want to end my life with dignity,” said former lawmaker Earnest Juggie Heen, who has liver and pancreatic cancer.

Both said they want to choose how and when they end their lives.

“It’s our position that aid in dying is legal and it can be incorporated into medical practice legitimately here in Hawaii,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, who is the president of Compassion & Choices, a national nonprofit organization that supports aid in dying. She returned to Hawaii in early November, one year after a small group of Hawaii doctors first prescribed life-ending medication to a terminally ill patient.

“Hawaii has a constellation of laws that have never really criminalized aid in dying,” she said.

She said in the past year, 31 people have inquired about aid in dying, seven qualified to receive medication, and four were actually prescribed it, but she said all four died of natural causes before taking that prescription.

“People just want the comfort. They just want peace of mind,” she told KITV4 reporter Lara Yamada. More

Happy Endings: In Real Life, Mystery Writer Promotes Assisted Death

by Elihu Blotnick
Stanford Magazine
November 8, 2012

At 82, Merla Zellerbach has been reborn as a mystery writer. Her earlier novels paint psychological portraits. The Hallie Marsh Mystery Series, however, reflects the Bay Area author’s present concern: the injustices of death.

“I’m just getting started; I feel fit and fabulous. I can never lie about my age,” she says with a laugh. “I was born here, educated here and still see too many of my old school chums from Stanford.”

Zellerbach’s Marsh—the heroine of three novels so far—becomes an accidental detective after breast cancer changes the course of her life. Surrounded by medical expertise and malfeasance, she evolves novel by novel, as the mystery within begins to reflect the mystery without. Zellerbach, ’52, writes with wry wit and a breezy style. She sets her plots in the Bay Area and keeps the reader absorbed with recognizable character types and local color. More

Massachusetts Vote May Change How the Nation Dies

by Lewis M. Cohen
Slate
October 29, 2012

This Election Day, Massachusetts is poised to approve the Death With Dignity Act. “Death with dignity” is a modernized, sanitized, politically palatable term that replaces the now-antiquated expression “physician-assisted suicide.” Four polls conducted in the past couple of months have shown strong support for the ballot question, although a well-funded media blitz by the opposition is kicking in during the final several weeks and may influence voter opinions.

Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act has been in effect for the past 14 years, and the state of Washington followed suit with a similar law in 2008. Despite concerns of skeptics, the sky has not fallen; civilization in the Northwest remains intact; the poor, disenfranchised, elderly, and vulnerable have not been victimized; and Oregon has become a leader in the provision of excellent palliative medicine services.

But the Massachusetts ballot question has the potential to turn death with dignity from a legislative experiment into the new national norm. The state is the home of America’s leading medical publication (the New England Journal of Medicine), hospital (Massachusetts General), and four medical schools (Harvard, Boston University, University of Massachusetts, and Tufts).  Passage of the law would represent a crucial milestone for the death with dignity movement, especially since 42 percent of the state is Catholic and the church hierarchy vehemently opposes assisted dying. Vermont and New Jersey are already entertaining similar legislature, and if the act passes in Massachusetts, other states that have previously had unsuccessful campaigns will certainly be emboldened to revisit this subject. More

Death With Dignity in Massachusetts

by Lauren Mackler
Huffington Post
October 23, 2012

Watching a loved one die without dignity is devastating. Sadly, both of my parents experienced prolonged, painful, and what I considered to be, unnecessarily inhumane deaths.

Twelve years ago I attempted to discuss end-of-life planning with my mother and father. Because I believe that death is simply a transition to another plane of existence, I tend to approach the topic in a rather direct and practical way, as was the case with my parents back in 2000. I suggested that they do end-of-life planning in advance, to ensure clarity about their wishes and to avoid any potential family conflict. But because neither of my parents were able to discuss or plan for death, at the end they were each kept alive by artificial means and suffered heart-wrenching deaths.

Following emergency surgery for a ruptured intestine, my 90-year-old father languished on a hospital respirator for more than a month. During this time, I happened upon a documentary on HBO called How to Die in Oregon. The film is about the Death with Dignity laws in Oregon and Washington, which allow mentally competent, terminally-ill adults to voluntarily request and receive a prescription medication to hasten their death. How to Die in Oregon doesn’t tell people how they should die, but it shows how having more options for end-of-life care gives people more peace of mind in their final days.

I had always felt conflicted about physician-assisted suicide. But after watching the How to Die in Oregon documentary, I became convinced that Death with Dignity should be a legal option for any adult facing terminal illness. On November 6, 2012, the Death with Dignity Initiative (also known as Question 2) will appear on the general election ballot in my home state of Massachusetts. More

Physician-Assisted Death Is Illegal in Most States, so My Patient Made Another Choice

by David Muller
Health Affairs
October 23, 2012

Charles—Charlie, as I came to know him—greeted me at the door wearing only his boxer shorts and a full head of tousled white hair. Ninety-one-year-old folds of skin hung loosely from his lanky, bent, but powerful frame.

My first impression was of an aged Abraham Lincoln: strong and gangly, dignified despite the boxers, with a mischievous smile that I would later learn never left his face except when his pain overwhelmed him. He had the grip of a man half his age, and after shaking his hand I had to look to make sure all my fingers were still there.

I was seeing Charlie because he’d been referred to Mount Sinai Visiting Doctors, a home care program by physicians for homebound elderly patients in Manhattan. The first day I visited him, Charlie led me into his one-bedroom apartment, using the walls and the backs of chairs to make his way into the living room. Cluttered and lived in, it was an obstacle course of well-worn furniture and fraying rugs. No matter where you sat, bowls of Life Savers and foil-wrapped chocolate kisses were strategically within arm’s reach.

Over the years Charlie had gradually limited his usual daytime range to within ten feet of his sofa, whose sagging cushions welcomed the weight of his aching bones. He invited me to sit with him and, in his plainspoken, self-effacing manner, responded to my questions by telling me his life story. More