End-of-Life Choice, Death with Dignity, Palliative Care and Counseling

Posts TaggedSouthern California News

Mexican-American Leader Joins Nation’s Leading End-of-Life Choice Organization

Former Planned Parenthood National Chaplain Named to Board of Compassion & Choices

(Los Angeles, Calif. – July 23, 2014) Rev. Dr. Ignacio Castuera, a Mexican-American civil and human rights leader, has joined the board of directors and Southern California advisory board for the nation’s leading end-of-life choice organization, Compassion & Choices.

A resident of Claremont, California, Rev. Castuera already has been interviewed by the Hispanic network TV Azteca about the recent launch of Compassion & Choices’ California campaign to allow death with dignity for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in The Golden State. The story will air in a few weeks.

A dedicated activist, Rev. Castuera has championed numerous causes that have grown quickly into wider acceptance. He was the national chaplain for Planned Parenthood for six years, married gay couples on national and international television, and has been a strong voice in the movement to legalize the medical practice of aid in dying for terminally ill adults. Five states currently allow it: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico. 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

Bringing Palliative Care Into the Conversation

by Dana Sitar
Seven Ponds
October 4, 2012

California State University is tackling a shortage in palliative care workers by launching the first statewide educational and workforce development initiative dedicated specifically to palliative care. With an aging population and an increase in the number of people living with serious illness, health care systems are facing the challenge of providing the care our population needs, and the CSU Institute for Palliative Care will help overcome that challenge.

“Our aging society requires a qualified palliative care workforce that can support people’s desire for quality of life, independence, and choice and control in their health care decisions,” said Joseph Prevratil, CEO and President of Archstone Foundation, which provided initial grant funding for the Institute, along with California HealthCare Foundation.

The CSU Institute for Palliative Care at CSU-San Marcos will offer palliative care training for professionals, and it will educate the public about the value of palliative care and how to access it. This public awareness will be invaluable to those who would benefit from palliative care but know so little about it. More

Calif. man, 88, won’t be charged with assisting in suicide of ailing wife

By NBC News staff and wire
NBC News
August 23, 2012

An 88-year-old man who was arrested shortly after the death of his ailing wife on suspicion of aiding in her suicide will not be charged with any crime.

San Diego prosecutors determined that the case against Alan Purdy couldn’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, said Tanya Sierra, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, on Wednesday night.

Margaret Purdy, 84, was found dead in her home with a plastic bag over her head in March, her death ruled a suicide by the county medical examiner. Family said she had becoming increasingly depressed as she battled a series of ailments and injuries in her final years while her husband doted on her.

“She had mentioned for some time that she was under a great deal of pain and that this was a very hard life,”  the couple’s son-in-law, John Muster, said in a telephone interview from Berkeley at the time of the arrest.

The once vibrant woman left a suicide note on her desk after being bedridden in her final years from severe pancreatitis, as well as an autoimmune disease, a crumbling spine and three fractured vertebrae that never healed, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Alan Purdy’s sister-in-law, Margot Smith, told The Associated Press Wednesday that it would have been awful if prosecutors had decided to pursue a case.

“I’m absolutely delighted to hear it. He’s 88 years old and hard of hearing and he loved his wife dearly,” Smith said.

Smith added that Alan Purdy was so hard of hearing that he had trouble making out what authorities were saying to him at the time of his arrest.

“I’m delighted to hear this,” Purdy’s daughter, Catherine Purdy, a Berkeley psychologist, told The Times. “I feel like justice has finally happened.”

The Purdys were close friends for many years and proved a perfect match when they married later in life, relatives said. It was the second marriage for both Purdys, each of whom had outlived their previous spouses, said The Times. Margaret Purdy kept a close eye on her husband, who lost much of his hearing with age. He, in turn, watched after her as she coped with her ailments.

A previous suicide attempt
In Margaret Purdy’s last year of life, her pain became so severe that she was unable to get out of bed without Alan’s help, and she stopped doing activities that she enjoyed, like painting, The Times reported in May. Three months before her death, when Alan was out of the house, Margaret had attempted to take her life by poisoning herself with carbon monoxide in their garage; Alan came home and pulled her out of the car before she could finish, The Times said.

Alan Purdy, a pilot with a doctorate in biomedical engineering, worked for years at the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Muster said both were “fully functioning mentally.”

When paramedics arrived at their home on March 20, Purdy told them his wife had taken 30 sleeping pills crushed in applesauce, then suffocated herself, The Times reported. He told them — and later deputies — that he didn’t help her, but he also said he didn’t try to stop her.

From the bedroom that he and Margaret shared for nearly 15 years, Purdy admitted to The Times, “Yes, I sat beside her as she died. I didn’t want her to feel abandoned. I wanted her to know that I loved her.”

There is no specific federal law regarding either euthanasia or assisted suicide. All 50 states and the District of Columbia prohibit euthanasia — which is when a doctor actively kills a patient — under general homicide laws.

California is one of three dozen states that have specific laws prohibiting assisted suicides. Seven ban assisted suicide under common law.


Husband won’t be charged in wife’s suicide

By Tony Perry
Los Angeles Times
August 23, 2012

Criminal charges will not be filed against an 88-year-old San Marcos man who sat beside his ailing wife as she committed suicide, the San Diego County district attorney’s office announced Wednesday.

After a thorough review, the office decided that it could not meet “the ethical and legal burden” of proving a charge of “assisted suicide” against Alan Purdy, according to a spokesman for Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis.

“We do not discuss the reasons when we don’t file criminal charges,” spokesman Steve Walker said, “other than [to say that] we only file when we believe we can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

On March 20, Purdy’s wife, Margaret, 84, committed suicide after years of unrelenting pain from a variety of ailments. The couple were married for 15 years.

Purdy, a semiretired engineer, did not try to stop his wife as she swallowed apple sauce mixed with sleeping pills and put a plastic bag over her head.

“Yes, I sat beside her as she died,” Purdy told The Times weeks after the death. “I didn’t want her to feel abandoned. I wanted her to know that I loved her.”

Purdy’s children and his wife’s children from a previous marriage were opposed to criminal charges being filed.

“I’m delighted to hear this,” said Purdy’s daughter Catherine Purdy, a Berkeley psychologist, when informed of the district attorney’s decision. “I feel like justice has finally happened.”

Her father, Catherine Purdy said, “is very lonesome and unhappy. He lost his wife, and then to have to wait for this decision — it’s been very hard on him.”

A rarely enforced California law from the 19th century says that anyone who “deliberately aids, or advises, or encourages another to commit suicide” is guilty of a felony. Unlike several other states, California does not have a law that permits physician-assisted suicide.

Once a vibrant woman who enjoyed traveling and painting, Margaret Purdy was bedridden in her final years from severe pancreatitis, an autoimmune disease, from a crumbling spine, and from three fractured vertebrae that never healed properly. She left a suicide note on her desk.

Alan Purdy was arrested even before the medical examiner removed his wife’s body from the couple’s home. But at an arraignment in March, the district attorney said that the case was under review.

“This is a great relief, of course,” Purdy said of the district attorney’s decision ultimately to not file charges. He said he grieves daily for his wife but said that he’s “definitely happy [the district attorney’s office] made this right decision.”