Terry Goldberg Recorded Video Only Days Before her Death
To honor the first anniversary of Terry Goldberg’s death, Compassion & Choices is posting a video Terry recorded in which she and her family urge state lawmakers nationwide to authorize medical aid in dying as an option for terminally ill adults.
Terry suffered from multiple system atrophy (MSA), a rare, rapidly progressing, terminal, neurodegenerative disease that takes away the ability to walk, talk, swallow and breathe. Terry was diagnosed with MSA in May of 2014.
“I would choke and not be able to get my breath; it was really frightening,” Terry says in the video, which is posted below. “The most significant thing to me is it interferes with the normal interaction that I have with my family and my grandchildren. And when the grandkids come over and everybody is on the floor reading a book and playing a game, in my mind, I think I can do that too. But in reality, it’s not going to happen.”
Terry knew that her death was imminent and she wanted to die peacefully at home with her family, not in a hospital room tethered to machines. Medical aid in dying gives terminally ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can self-ingest to gently die in their sleep, at home and end unbearable suffering in the last months, weeks or days of life.
Unfortunately, Terry’s home state of Arizona does not authorize medical aid in dying. As a result, she chose to voluntarily stop eating and drinking (VSED) with palliative support to shorten her dying process.
“I would never, ever leave this earth unless I was in a situation like I am,” Terry says in the video. “But it’s taking me only one direction, and such a frustrating, painful, continuous ordeal. That is a deal breaker for me.”
Terry’s family supported her decision to voluntarily stop eating and drinking with palliative support so she could end her unbearable suffering, even though the process took a few days.
“If you were diagnosed with a disease and told that, I mean, it was a terminal illness, where you knew that every day was going to be worse than the day before, and that most likely you would die from choking, how can you judge someone for wanting to die peacefully instead of a violent horrible death?” says Terry’s daughter, Lauren Cain, in the video.
“I can’t believe that there is any justification to go through this kind of pain, knowing the final result, and not being able to have some kind of control,” says Terry’s husband, Lance Goldberg, in the video. “So ending one’s life as a choice versus suffering I think is right in tune with our beliefs.”
A longtime kindergarten teacher, Terry wanted her last lesson to be teaching others about her end-of-life experience. Terry bravely declined her pain and other medications so she could be conscious and coherent before she recorded the video only a few days before she died. People with MSA often die from respiratory problems.
“And when I asked to have some control, and it was granted to be that way, and made a huge difference immediately in my psychological comfort, still never knowing or thinking I would do this act,” Terry says in the video. “But it just gave me the opportunity to know that I had an out before I was frightened into such a fear factor.”
Terry died on Feb. 19, 2015, at home surrounded by her family, as she wished. But Terry could have died more peacefully had she had the benefit of medical aid in dying.
“And if we knew that she had that option to be able to be guided through that process, it would have given us so much more peace,” says Terry’s other daughter, Leigh Suskin, in the video.
The full transcript of this video is available here.