from our blog:

living with dying

read more from our blog


Join Our Chat About "How to Die in Oregon" May 27

Join Our Chat About "How to Die in Oregon" May 27

After How to Die in Oregon premiers on HBO May 26th, please tune into our live TweetChat the following day at 1pm (ET)/10am (PT) to talk about the film.

With TweetChat, Twitter allows for a unique venue to openly and candidly talk about this intimate documentary which explores Oregon's Death with Dignity Act through individuals' stories. By engaging in this conversation you'll help us raise awareness about why everyone should have the ability to determine the manner and timing of their own deaths when faced with a terminal illness.

I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts as well as the unique perspectives of our partners working to pass the Vermont legislation this biennium, Patient Choices Vermont and two women whose loved ones died with grace and dignity through Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. Jill Curtis, Cody Curtis' daughter, is featured in How to Die in Oregon, and Nora Miller was by her husband's side as he decided when and whether to hasten his death.

To give you a little primer, here are the discussion topics:

  1. Why did you watch the film and what did you find most memorable?
  2. What were your views going into the film and did they change?
  3. At some film festivals, moviegoers walked out of the film. Why do you think they did?
  4. Director Peter Richardson in an interview: "You could almost call the film 'How to Live in Oregon.'" Thoughts?

New to Twitter and TweetChats? Here are some easy steps on joining in the fun:

  • Where: TweetChat in the How To Die In Oregon #htdio room. Once you're on webpage for the #htdio hashtag, this hashtag will automatically be added to your tweet.
  • When: May 27th at 1:00pm US Eastern Time
  • How:
    1. Sign up on Twitter today
    2. Follow us (we always follow-back)
    3. Click here to go to the TweetChat site
    4. Authorize TweetChat to use your Twitter account by clicking "Sign In"
    5. You're ready to join the discussion!
  • Questions? Email me.

Comments

  • Posted by Judy on Thursday, May 26 at 07:30 p.m.

    I have watched both my parents, my mother-in-law & my older sister slowly die from cancer. In April 2008 my older brother was diagnosed with cancer, did chemo then suffered a stroke at the end of May. He decided not to put his family through the torture of watching him die. He went into a Hospice, taking only pain medication by intravenous & passed away 5 days later. I believe in choices & found this show to be compassionate, dignified & very eye opening. I live in Canada & we have no options except to "live until we die". I feel as humans we should have the right to "die with dignity". It's punishing to watch your loved ones suffer. It's demeaning to them & very difficult for those family members who care for them. I honestly feel it is our life and we deserve a say in how we live it...or end it.

  • Posted by Ann on Thursday, May 26 at 09:00 p.m.

    I am forever changed by this amazing, inspirational story. Death with Dignity should be a right for all persons. We treat our animals with such caring and compassion, yet expect loved ones to suffer through with controlled "pain management"..this is a true blessing.

  • Posted by Dr. Stanley A Terman, CaringAdvoctes.org on Thursday, May 26 at 09:55 p.m.

    This is a sensitive and insightful video. It not only provides information about Physician-Assisted Dying; it also gives universal insight into what it is like to be a terminally ill patient, to contemplate one’s death; and then the rarer opportunity to choose a day and even an hour when consciousness will end, with life ending soon, but not as precisely predictable, after. The dying have much to teach us and some have skills that make it possible for us to learn more. All of us are fortunate that the heroine, Cody Curtis, was a woman who had an abundance of self-perception and kill in being able to articulate her feelings at various phases along her path. She and we are also fortunate that is was a longer path than expected. She dealt with the wish to be in control, at first; then the wish to accomplish what was on her “list” before her time came; and then her wish to be relieved of suffering.

    This I a wonderful video, but I do have a few qualms, which are NOT minor:

    Around minute 37, Nancy says about her husband Randy who had a brain tumor (Niedzielski): “The only thing I could do was to hold his hand. There was nothing else I could do. Those last few weeks (of his life) were really bad. It was too late to move to Oregon and establish residency” (really, establish a relationship with a willing physician). Here is what could have been done: Excellent palliative care includes Palliative Sedation, which can ALWAYS relieve ALL kinds of suffering since it is really anesthesia. Combined with the right to refuse treatment, in this case, artificial nutrition and hydration, Randy would not be uncomfortable and could have died in a few days, rather a few weeks.

    Presenting this reality may have decreased her motivation to fight for a cause that her husband asked her to, to join others in the fight, and to win… all of which is a great diversion from her grief. It would also have made the case for Physician-Assisted Dying less compelling and the video less compelling.

    Similarly, Cody Curtis also had other options and for a while, I worried that she needed to be informed about them. She could have opted for VSED or Voluntary Refusal of Food & Fluid, which would have relieved some of her fluid accumulation and pain. But her blood pressure might have gotten too low.

    My concern was that her physician said she had trouble keeping medication down when taken orally and that she would therefore be at her bedside at the pre-arranged time. For the DwDA to work, the patient needed to take the medication without assistance from another person. This evidently worked, although we did not see it happen, but only heard it—from the window outside the bedroom. (Fair enough if the reason was that the family wanted privacy.) But what if the patient vomited up the poison? That’s when she needed to know about (again)… Palliative Sedation and refusal of artificial nutrition and hydration to accomplish her goal. It might have taken a few days longer, but it would have worked for sure, instead of just hoping that she would not vomit.

  • Posted by Bernie on Friday, May 27 at 07:45 a.m.

    I was the wife of Roger Sagner who died in the first part of Peter's film. I have seen the film at Sundance, at Portland film festival and at an HBO preview. I am still blown away by the dignity of the people in the film. Roger would be so proud of his legacy and I know that Cody and her family are proud of her grace, dignity, and legacy of facing death with dignity. Roger's choice made his last six months so much more bareable. I am still grateful to the voters of Oregon for making this option open to him.

  • Posted by Nancy Niedzielski on Friday, May 27 at 09:57 a.m.

    To Dr. Terman,

    I hope you will oblige me by allowing me to respond to your comments. First, my husband was allergic to morphine, which is a common drug used for palliative sedation. Second, The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization readily admits there are some types of suffering at the end of life that can't be controlled. My husband's cancer of the brain, spinal cord and nervous system was in that category. It's not appropriate for me to describe the gory details here, but trust me when I say Hospice did all they could but for some patients that isn't always enough. If you doubt that, then I encourage you to become a Hospice volunteer.

    While I respect your thoughts and am grateful you watched Peter's documentary, I'm sure you know that dying doesn't always neatly work the way we would hope. Withholding water and food can expedite the dying process, but even that doesn't always cause a death within days, versus weeks. If someone believes it always does, then they would benefit by witnessing an otherwise extremely healthy and athletic man die of brain cancer. There were others in our Brain Tumor Support Group in that same category.

    Hospice was wonderful and did what they could to help Randy but sometimes there are limitations. Which is why this Law is so important. My husband didn't get the choice he wanted, knowing full well what his death would be like. He was a very kind and compassionate man and even in his dying thought about others not wanting anyone to suffer the way he did. I spent a year of my life keeping that promise. I think those who campaigned with me would say that did the opposite of creating a diversion from my grief.

    As to your concern about Cody being able to keep the meds down, you may remember her mentioning she would be taking a medication 45 minutes before she took the final life-ending medication. The purpose of the first medication is to calm the stomach so that a patient won't vomit before the life-ending medication has time to work. I hope this information alleviates your concerns. Thank you listening.

  • Posted by Melissa Barber on Friday, May 27 at 05:55 p.m.

    Thank you, all of you, for sharing your thoughtful comments. I want to especially thank Bernie and Nancy for openly and candidly discussing your very personal perspectives on Death with Dignity. Your individual stories and willingness to tell them help so many people truly understand why this needs to be an option everywhere.

    The opinions of some government officials and religious groups should not make this decision for any of us. The final decision of how to live the rest of one's life should rest in the hands of the terminally-ill individual.

    Thank you,
    Melissa
    --------
    Melissa Barber
    Electronic Communications Specialist
    Death with Dignity National Center

  • Posted by Elle on Saturday, May 28 at 07:22 a.m.

    I believe in order to truly understand death with dignity we must first address the blind ignorance that exists about death. Unfortunately, most of us have watched far too many movies that glorify the end of life as a touching scene of the family surrounding the loved one as he/she slips quietly and painfully into the great beyond. The "good death" of film and TV series is not reality based, but ironically, death with dignity is the closest approximation of the "good death" ideal.

    During the past 5 years I have faced the harsh truth that the American way of death is nothing like a Hollywood ending. Death has become a long, drawn out, agonizing affair full of endless and needless medical interventions, none which add in any way to the quality of life for the patient. Sadly loved ones are often obdurate believers who are swept along in a high tide of false hope.

    After watching the movie "How we die in Oregon" I felt great sorrow for the man who fought for more chemo, because he was another misinformed believer.

  • Posted by Trish Kuper, RN, BSN, CCRA on Saturday, May 28 at 05:24 p.m.

    I just want to thank all of you for sharing this with us. I am a nurse and I also lost my mother to CA. Before I post my thoughts, I want to research this a little more. I've always been a strong constiuent of choice, but I want to make sure I am knowledgeable.

    I have to admit this..Cody's courage and choices moved me like nothing else has in my 18 years of nursing.

  • Posted by Trish Kuper, RN, BSN, CCRA on Saturday, May 28 at 05:30 p.m.

    Also...Nancy...

    You are a good wife.

  • Posted by Linda Adams on Saturday, May 28 at 11:22 p.m.

    I just watched this on HBO on demand and I want to thank all of the families for allowing the public the priviledge of such personal decisions. It made me smile at times, it definitely made me cry, but ultimately it made me realize that this should be an option for all humans. Cody was a remarkable woman to allow the camera to follow her illness and ultimate decision. Heartfelt thanks to her family. Nancy for honoring her husbands wishes...I'm sure he is smiling down on you. Thank all of you for a very moving and enlightening documentary.

  • Posted by Michelle C on Sunday, May 29 at 01:03 p.m.

    Thank you to the courageous people who allowed themselves to be filmed through those intimate moments. I am truly grateful for the life lessons.

  • Posted by Paula F on Tuesday, May 31 at 02:44 a.m.

    I recorded this documentary when it premiered earlier this week, but was only able to bring myself to watch it today. My mother ended her suffering under Oregon's Death with Dignity Act in 2008, and I was with her and my Dad at the end, holding her hand. Nancy, you are 1000% right when you say there are very real limitations to what palliative care can provide for some patients. My mother's breast cancer was filling her lungs with fluid, and she was literally drowning in her own body. She gasped for every breath for three days before the end, despite having oxygen. Every pain medication her doctors prescribed had an additional suppressive effect on her breathing. She was suffering terribly, and she was terrified of suffocating slowly to death over a period of weeks. When she contacted Compassion and Choices months before her death, she planned never to use the medication unless her suffering became unbearable. When it did, we were all grateful that she had done everything she needed to do to get the medication while she had still had enough energy to do so.

    I respect other people's choices for their own lives, but I am frustrated when I hear anyone who has not directly experienced the kind of suffering I wistnessed firsthand dismiss it as "manageable" with today's "good palliative" solutions. There may well be good palliative care for some kinds of patients and some courses of death. But none of us is in any position to speak with authority to the quality or intensity of another person's terminal pain, or whether it is being managed adequately.

    To this day, three years after my mother's death, I am so very grateful to the voters of Oregon for making the death with dignity choice available to her. I am grateful to Compassion and Choices for helping her to find a doctor who would assist her in very conservative Southern Oregon when no doctor in her own small town would write a prescription despite agreeing she was well within the six-month diagnosis window ... and for helping her find a pharmacy that would fill the prescription, once written. I am grateful to the Compassion and Choices volunteers who drove many hours to offer whatever assistance my family needed (or even to sit outside in the car if that's what we wanted). If I lived in Oregon, I would do whatever I could to become such a volunteer myself. What those caring, wonderful people did for my family ... there simply are not words to express my appreciation.

    I hope that someday voters in my own state of California will demand a similar right.

    And to Nancy and the Curtis family, and all the others who participated in the making of this very powerful film, I am so grateful to you for sharing your stories. I know it was not easy to share your losses on such a public stage ... thank you for letting us get to know your beautiful family members just a little, and please know how grateful I am to them for having had the courage to share their journeys with us.

  • Posted by Cathy on Thursday, June 02 at 07:50 a.m.

    I would like to thank everyone involved for such a compassionate and inspirational film. As a resident of Washington State, and supporter of DWD, I am so very grateful to Nancy Niedzielski for the work she did to get this law passed in my state. I am truly moved by her dedication to fulfilling her husband's final wishes. I hope that I or my loved ones never have to make this choice, but it is so very comforting to know that it is available should we need it. It is sad to think that most people do not have this option.
    "Thank You" seems so inadequate......

  • Posted by Elaine A. Hall on Thursday, June 02 at 08:29 a.m.

    I watched the film last night, and am still moved with the impact it has made in my heart! Beyond the thought provoking subject matter...my heart will always be filled with the bit of life which we were allowd to view of the families. I am so sorry for all of the suffering you had to bear and I defend your choices!! God Love you all.

  • Posted by Laurie on Wednesday, October 19 at 07:39 p.m.

    I just watched this on demand tonight(mid October) and Cody's story was so sad, so very sad to me. I, a stranger, couldn't stand to see her get sicker, an sicker, over the course of the show. She was such a remarkable, memorable person. But I'm still very torn between the choice of dying, and no choice. On one hand, it made ME sick to see Cody suffer, and go through such inhumane pain, but on the other side, I don't know how I or if I could deal with my mother leaving at her own discretion. But then again, it almost sounds selfish to want someone to stay on earth with you, while living in such unimaginable discomfort. I pray God Is comforting Cody's family and the others from this documentary.

  • Posted by jack jett on Saturday, November 05 at 11:52 a.m.

    Dr. Terman...

    I am a little more blunt that most commenters here. How dare you throw in your two cents when it is clear you have an agenda. You lack of understanding the bravery of these people show that you are out of the loop and lack the compassion that any doctor should have. Your suggestion that Cody should have starved herself to death makes me wonder what sort of school would certify you as a Doctor.
    Please apologize to the families of these heroes and then go away and take your right wing agenda with you.

Defend dignity. Take action.

You are the key to ensuring well-crafted Death with Dignity laws for all Americans. With your financial and volunteer help, the Death with Dignity National Center, a 501(c)(3), non-partisan, non-profit organization, has been the leading advocate in the death with dignity movement. Member contributions helped us pass a new Death with Dignity law in Washington, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the death with dignity movement.

donate today