Personal Stories

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In the Death with Dignity movement we all have experiences to share. These are our constituents' personal stories of courage, pain, joy, fear, sadness and hope.

To tell your story and help others understand why Death with Dignity laws are important please send an email to Melissa.

Always remember: you are not alone.

Stephen Hawking Supports Assisted Death

In an interview with BBC News, groundbreaking theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking very clearly articulated his support for laws allowing for safeguarded physician-assisted dying:

I think those who have a terminal illness and are in great pain should have the right to choose to end their lives, and those who help them should be free from prosecution.

Hawking went on to explain, laws allowing for assisted death must be accompanied by safeguards to ensure those making the decision genuinely want to end their lives and aren't being pressured into it or have it done without their knowledge and consent.

This is exactly what the Death with Dignity laws we advocate for accomplish. These laws which we've helped our grassroots partners pass in Oregon, Washington, and Vermont are specifically written to safely allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults the right to control the manner and timing of their own deaths and protect everyone involved—patients, doctors and pharmacists. The request process involves two doctors, waiting periods, and multiple requests.

Read more: Stephen Hawking Supports Assisted Death

What Does It Mean to Die with Dignity?

Death with Dignity is a movement to provide options for the dying to control their own end-of-life care.

"What does it mean to die with dignity?" was the basis for my guest article for the website I'm Sorry to Hear. It's not a simple question to answer. Not only will it be different for every person, but the answer may change during the course of an illness. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article:

For some, it will mean trying every treatment possible to extend life. Others will opt to focus purely on comfort care earlier and work with their medical team to remain as comfortable as possible–even if it means being heavily sedated in their final days. And under the Vermont, Oregon, and Washington Death with Dignity laws, some will decide to have more control of the timing and manner of their deaths with the help of medication prescribed by their doctors.

Each option centers around one common theme: patient-centered care. This care model empowers patients and their doctors to work together to determine the most appropriate treatment options for each individual patient.

Read more: What Does It Mean to Die with Dignity?

Remembering Paul Spiers

The Death with Dignity National Center honors an important leader and advocate, Paul Spiers, who died yesterday in Massachusetts. Along with his unwavering support for Death with Dignity, Paul was an avid horseman and a gifted scholar, reflecting his widely varying interests and activities.

Paul was one of the first people who called me when I was named Executive Director of the National Center. He welcomed me to the job and quickly offered his assessment of the movement. I faced a steep learning curve in my new job, and he carefully helped me understand the complexities and nuances inherent in the issues I would face. We both had careers in healthcare without being direct care providers, and we both had personal reasons for being involved with the Death with Dignity movement. We had a respectful and productive relationship from nearly day one.

Paul helped start the organization Autonomy, which represents the interest of people with disabilities in their efforts to exercise choice in all aspects of their lives—including at the end of their lives. He was the President of End-of-Life Choices, a former organization in the Death with Dignity movement, and he helped me understand how all the organizations in the movement fit together...a complicated feat!

Read more: Remembering Paul Spiers

A Song to Celebrate 73 Years of Marriage

It started with an open call for submissions to Green Shoe Studio's songwriting contest. Fred Stobaugh caught the contest in his local paper about six weeks after his wife of 73 years died, and was drawn to submit a song he'd written celebrating all the years they cherished together.

Fred's submission was different from any of the other entries in the contest. He's not a musician, and unlike most of the other submissions, it wasn't sent in as an audio or video recording. It was a plain manilla envelope with his lyrics for "Sweet Lorraine."

So touched by the entry, the studio producer, Jacob Colgan, contacted Fred to tell him the studio wanted to set his lyrics to professional music. Fred was very pleased but mentioned he didn't have the money to pay for the production. Not to worry; Jacob "wanted to bring his lyrics to life." The studio would cover the costs.

Read more: A Song to Celebrate 73 Years of Marriage

Facing My Own Mortality

Daisies in Water, photo care of Laurie Reichart

Laurie Reichart has worked more than 25 years in the health field, and studied creative writing at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. Her forthcoming short story, "Pink Slippers," is in the 2011 edition of Blood and Thunder: Muses on the art of medicine. She has contributed essays to various health organizations, and most of her writing has been on social issues in healthcare and emotional issues on death and dying. This excerpt from "Watering the Flowers" is republished with permission.

A time came when I had to face my own mortality. It was my fourth visit to the doctor in two weeks. The first visit was a routine exam and physical. It never occurred to me that I would be sent down the rugged road of testing, prodding, needles, scanning, and ultrasounds. On this particular visit I wasn't led to the usual examining room. Instead, I was taken to a place that was elegantly decorated. The walls were golden with autumn decor. There were paintings of beautiful women throughout different eras. A large overstuffed couch was filled with ornate pillows. A few cherry wood tables held two small lamps. The lamps were the only source of light, replacing the usual fluorescent lighting in the ceiling. Across from the couch was an upholstered chair. The room was serene and calming, yet, I was nervous.

Read more: Facing My Own Mortality

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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, 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.

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