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Why Won't You Let Me Go?

Brian Smith lives in Oakland, California. His family's farm is in Stockton. This article was originally published on Medium and is republished with permission.

Dad was confused.

He was taking a combination of drugs that were keeping him alive and reducing his pain. His morphine dose was quite high.

The fact that he had even made it to 78 years old was amazing considering he survived California's polio crisis of the 1940s. But now it was coming back. Post-Polio Syndrome weakens muscles that were previously affected by the polio infection. This brilliant man was atrophying both mentally and physically before our eyes. Eventually, he would not be able to breathe. And there was no cure.

"When do we go?" he asked us. "Where are the other attorneys? This is an important deposition."

He was on a kind of mental auto-pilot, reliving 45 years of familiar work stress—not the way anyone wants to experience his final days.

"There are no more depositions," my wife explained in soothing tones. "Your job is done. You were one of California's finest lawyers and you helped build a respected firm in the Central Valley. You should be very proud of your legacy."

"Why won't you let me go?" he said with tears welling up in his eyes.

That cut straight to the issue at hand.

Read more: Why Won't You Let Me Go?

Building Infrastructure and Effective Coalitions

This spring and summer, I embarked on a journey to author a five-part blog post series about how to build momentum to advocate for Death with Dignity policy reform in your state. During the initial post, I talked about how to engage with your family and friends in conversations about hastened dying; in the second, I provided guidance about steps needed to learn more about the issue and build alliances. In the third post, I discussed the ABCs of ballot initiative and legislative campaigns.

In this blog post, the fourth in the series, I will talk about building organizational infrastructure and coalitions.

Read more: Building Infrastructure and Effective Coalitions

This Week in the Movement

Bishop Desmond Tutu

Throughout the week, we keep people up-to-date about the Death with Dignity movement and other topics related to end-of-life care through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Below are highlights from the last couple of weeks.

Efforts regarding Death with Dignity:

Read more: This Week in the Movement

Let's Talk

The Tombstone

Christi R. Suzanne is a web and communications professional in health care and higher education. She writes in her spare time and is currently working on a novel where dying well is one of its themes. Follow her on Twitter: @christirsuzanne.

I've been obsessed with four things my entire life: writing, reading, traveling, and dying. The first "book" I ever wrote was called The Tombstone. I hadn't come up with my pen name yet. I was in fourth grade and wrote it on one of my mother's notepads. I even illustrated it. The story is about a mother and daughter. One day, when the child is older and living in America the mother moves into a cave in an unnamed country. Pretty soon the reader realizes that the mother is sick, deathly ill and that she isn't going to live much longer. In the end, her daughter picks exactly three flowers and places them on top of her mother. She watches her die peacefully.

Even then, I imagined a whole story based around a way to control how you die and choosing who to have next to your deathbed. Most of all, I hoped death would be a peaceful experience.

Read more: Let's Talk

Religious Leaders Supporting Death with Dignity

Lord Carey on assisted dying

The House of Lords in the UK will hear testimony and debate their proposed Death with Dignity bill this week. The bill closely emulates our model legislation, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which Oregonians approved in 1994 and reiterated their support in 1997. Much like in the US, Death with Dignity is a hotly debated topic in the UK, and the lead up to this week's hearing there've been many excellent op-eds in support of the law. Some which have come out in the last week have been by prominent religious leaders.

All of them looked at their understanding of their religious doctrines in the context of being close to loved ones who've died. Each challenged their Churches' official statements and how teachings of sanctity of life are consistent with giving people who are dying more options in their final days.

Last week, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey shared why he changed his mind and now strongly supports the proposed Death with Dignity law in the UK. This week has been witness to supportive statements from Nobel Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu and the current Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson.

Read more: Religious Leaders Supporting Death with Dignity

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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, nonprofit organization, has been the leading advocate in the Death with Dignity movement. Individual contributions helped us pass new Death with Dignity laws in Washington and Vermont, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the Death with Dignity movement.

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