Coloradan Leigh Suskin learned about Compassion & Choices when doing research to help her mother, Terry Goldberg, who had been diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a rare, fatal, neurodegenerative disease. “We just wanted to know all of the options out there so she could make the right decision,” says Suskin. “Instead of looking on Google, it would have been so much better to just ask her doctor, ‘What are my options? What’s going to be painless and allow me to have a backup if I push myself to the point where the pain gets to be too much?’ Because we loved our doctor. But because of legal issues, nobody can ask questions directly; you have to talk around it.”
Working with C&C’s End-of-Life Consultation Service, Suskin’s mother, who lived in Arizona, chose to voluntarily stop eating and drinking (VSED) to end her suffering in February of 2015. Suskin decided then to begin volunteering for Compassion & Choices and our affiliates in Colorado. “Part of it was a promise to my mom. Even as her life got more and more difficult, she was adamant that something good come out of her experience so that nobody else would have to go through that kind of isolation and frustration. And part of it is just personally wanting to make sure that we can ask and have dialogue around the tough questions.”
Suskin, who works in the software industry and parents two young daughters, has since been lining up speaking engagements, and is collecting signatures and wrote a blog post for the Yes on Colorado End-of-Life Options campaign. And Arizona’s NPR affiliate ran a feature on her mother’s experience, including a video she produced with C&C.
“It’s just about people being able to decide what they want and to have an honest conversation about options,” explains Suskin. “I really don’t even know whether my mom would have used the prescription, but it probably would have been more pleasant than the VSED that was her only option at that point. I’m not very political, but I just don’t understand why anyone would have a problem with something that’s simply a choice.”