Guest Blogger

Many of the most successful blogs have an element in common: a diverse voice. Blogs partly came about, after all, from a desire for an interactive way to get information and to have a community of people participating in the discussions.

The Death with Dignity movement appeals to people from all walks of life, and we'd like your help in expanding our community. Interested in adding your voice to the Death with Dignity movement?

To have your piece considered for our blog, Living with Dying:

  • You must be a Death with Dignity National Center supporter.
  • Send your Death with Dignity-related article (700-1,000 words) to me via email.
  • Once your post is up, convince your friends and family to read it.

We look forward to reading your work.

Children's Grief Awareness Day

"Sad Child" by Anthony Kelly on flickr

Jennifer Marsh, LMFT, MS is the Community Education & Outreach Coordinator at The Center for Compassionate Care of The Elizabeth Hospice. She is a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist, with a certification in Crisis and Trauma Intervention.

My first experience with death came at the age of 12. I remember the day as if it were yesterday, instead of 20+ years ago. I was in my classroom at school, balancing between two desks on my hands with my feet raised when the teacher came to get me. My mom was there, she said, and it was time for me to get my things and go home. I walked out of that classroom with a horrible feeling in my stomach I just couldn't put into words—and it deepened the moment I caught a glimpse of my mom. She had obviously been crying and looked as if someone had just knocked her over. All she could manage to say was, "It's Grandpa. He's gone."

I was old enough to know gone meant he had died. He'd suffered multiple strokes over the past few months and the last time I saw my Grandpa, he was in a facility with all sorts of tubes coming out from all over the place. Gone meant he wasn't there, in that bed, anymore. Gone meant we'd never see him again. What I wasn't prepared for, however, was how this one experience would impact how I coped with grief throughout my life.

Read more: Children's Grief Awareness Day

A Case for Supporting Question 2

Dianne Williamson's article about why she supports the Massachusetts Death with Dignity initiative was originally published on the Worcester Telegram & Gazette website.

Jeannette Parker never asked much of her children. So her daughter was devastated when she could not grant her mother's last and perhaps most crucial plea—to help her die.

The Auburn woman had been fighting an aggressive brain tumor for almost five years when she agreed to hospice care. But despite the staff's best efforts, Ms. Parker was riddled with agonizing pain and dependent on others for her basic needs.

"It was, unfortunately, very terrible," said her daughter, Liz Parker Gagne. "As hard as they tried, hospice couldn't bring her relief, peace or comfort. She wanted someone to help her die, and no one could. There was a part of me that wanted to do that for her. But I have a toddler, and couldn't do it without putting my role of a mother in jeopardy. As my mother's caregiver, I felt guilt and failure."

If it passes Nov. 6, the "Death with Dignity Act" comes too late for Ms. Parker, who died this summer at 63. But her daughter is among those who believe that terminally ill patients should have the option of ending their lives when they choose, rather than be required by the state to endure unbearable suffering before they die.

Read more: A Case for Supporting Question 2

Death with Dignity in Massachusetts

Lauren Mackler is a world-renowned coach, psychotherapist, and author of the international bestseller Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life.

Watching a loved one die without dignity is devastating. Sadly, both of my parents experienced prolonged, painful, and what I considered to be, unnecessarily inhumane deaths.

Twelve years ago, I attempted to discuss end-of-life planning with my mother and father. Because I believe that death is simply a transition to another plane of existence, I tend to approach the topic in a rather direct and practical way, as was the case with my parents back in 2000. I suggested that they do end-of-life planning in advance, to ensure clarity about their wishes and to avoid any potential family conflict. But because neither of my parents were able to discuss or plan for death, at the end they were each kept alive by artificial means and suffered heart-wrenching deaths.

Read more: Death with Dignity in Massachusetts

Our Mom Deserved More Choices

Liz Parker Gagne and Jeff Parker live in Massachusetts, and recently shared why they support the Massachusetts Death with Dignity initiative on Dignity 2012's website.

Our mother passed away this summer at the age of 63 after suffering through a long battle with brain cancer. By the end of her life, after many treatments and attempts to cure her, it became clear that there would be no improvement. She desperately wanted to live but her illness was causing her unimaginable pain.

She required 24 hour care, could barely communicate, could no longer feed herself, and forgot how to swallow. We eventually moved her into a hospice residence, where she continued to suffer painfully until her body finally gave out.

Our mom did not want to endure constant suffering and did not want her two-and-a-half-year old grandson to see her in so much pain. We believe that our mom deserved more choices than what she was given, that she deserved to have the option to live her final days with dignity, surrounded by her family and enjoying her time with them; not wasting away before them.

Read more: Our Mom Deserved More Choices

Nancy Niedzielski from "How to Die in Oregon"

Nancy Niedzielski

Nancy Niedzielski worked tirelessly in Washington to advocate for the state's Death with Dignity Act which voters approved in 2008. Her efforts were documented in the groundbreaking documentary How to Die in Oregon which was honored at film festivals all over the world and nominated for an Emmy Award.

When it was announced the documentary How To Die In Oregon was nominated for an Emmy, memories of the Washington campaign to pass the second Death with Dignity law, flooded my mind. The documentary placed a bookmark at a historical event for people around the world to see. And see it they did with an outpouring of love and support for those who dedicate time and money to ensure terminally-ill patients have a choice in their dying pain. Film Festivals around the world honored the documentary with awards, which for my way of thinking, honors the patients. My husband suffered in his dying, and the Oregon Death With Dignity Act couldn't help him.

Read more: Nancy Niedzielski from "How to Die in Oregon"

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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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