Inspired by Brittany Maynard’s story in People magazine last year, Sally Settle’s mother, dying of leukemia, considered doing the same thing: relocating to Oregon from her home state of Minnesota in order to access medical aid in dying. “But it wasn’t realistic,” her daughter explains. “You can’t fathom giving up the last bit of time you have with your family to be on the other side of the country.” So her mother lived out her last months in increasing pain and constant worry about how bad things would get – likely she would bleed to death over several days. “Advice from the palliative care doctor was to ‘get lots of dark-colored towels so you and your family won’t be as traumatized by the experience.’”
Before her mother died – in the hospital, where she did not want to be, and in excruciating pain – she urged Settle to get involved in efforts to pass aid-in-dying legislation in Minnesota after she was gone. Settle connected with her local Compassion & Choices group and has been sharing her story and speaking to others about end-of-life options in her area ever since. “Until you’re faced with a similar situation,” she says, “it doesn’t hit your radar. What we have to do is put it on people’s radar even if they’re not in that situation. And one of the biggest challenges is people think hospice is enough; it just isn’t. How long should you have to be medicated out of consciousness so that you don’t suffer?”
She is encouraged by the amount of support she has seen in Minnesota and feels confident a law will succeed there eventually. “It’s rewarding to be part of this because I know we will be successful, and it will make me happy that I fulfilled the promise I made to my mother to help other people access this when she could not,” Settle said. “It’s an option everyone should have. We should be able to control our death as much as we control our life.”
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