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Volunteer Spotlight: Rosa Enriquez

“I’ve had a lot of death in my life,” explains Rosa Enriquez, a social welfare student and full-time veterinary technician in Berkeley, California. “My grandmother died at 68, and the last 18 months of her life were very difficult. Her doctors would say, ‘It’s a good kind of cancer; you should treat it,’ without really discussing options with her. Eight years later my grandfather was diagnosed with colon cancer. Eventually he decided to stop eating and drinking. It took 11 days for him to pass, and that was difficult as well. But we completely supported his decision, and he had hospice to help with his symptoms and pain.”

Rosa doesn’t know whether either of her grandparents would have used medical aid in dying but strongly believes knowing they had the option would have brought them comfort.“Especially my grandmother. She was tired, but she felt so much pressure to keep going from the doctors. The final decision to get her out of the ICU and bring her home came because a nurse pulled my mom aside and said, ‘She’s miserable here. What’s the plan?’ And my mom was shocked because none of the doctors had come forward and said that this is the end of the road; it’s not going to get better. Instead of focusing on her comfort and her happiness, they just kept pushing treatments.”

These experiences inspired Rosa to fight for people to have real options: “Knowledge is power, so talking about the end of life is important. As a Compassion & Choices volunteer, I’ve been meeting with people, and a lot of them say their children do not want to talk about dying. They’re scared to face the death of their parents. But it’s going to happen, and they have to talk about it so they can help make it as good as it can be. That’s why, even at my age, I feel so strongly about Compassion & Choices. Young people need to be involved in the end-of-life choice movement. The more we talk about it, the sooner it will just become normalized.”