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.

Nudging to Improve End-of-life Care Planning

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Several years ago, Richard Thaler and Cassie Sunstein published a book with a simple title and an apparently simple premise. The book was called Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. The premise was we can improve how we make decisions with small generally painless nudges. The work popularized leading edge neuroscience that postulates a division of labor in the human brain, between the fast System 1, that has a complete catalog of our entire experience and makes snap decisions to protect us from foolish mistakes, and the slow System 2, which uses a deliberative approach to problems that weighs evidence, does calculations, questions assumptions and so on, to make a reasoned decision that ultimately will also protect us from our impulsive selves. (Did I say simple? It is really, it's just a little wordy to describe.)

Read more: Nudging to Improve End-of-life Care Planning

Dr. Donald Low: Legalize Death with Dignity

Maureen Taylor and Dr. Donald Low

Eight days before he died of terminal brain cancer, prominent Canadian physician Donald Low recorded a video which stirred up a fair amount of controversy. Throughout his career, Dr. Low wasn't shy about speaking publicly, and he's best known for being the calm public voice to soothe Canadians through the SARS outbreak of 2003.

During the most controversial section of the video, he discussed his desire to live in a place with a carefully crafted Death with Dignity law and appealed for Canadian lawmakers to take up a serious and open conversation about physician-assisted dying. As an internist, he knew when doctors discovered his brain stem tumor in February, his prognosis wasn't good.

Knowing he was facing the end of his life wasn't his foremost concern. What bothered him was knowing the likely challenges he'd experience before he died, "I'm worried about how it's going to end. I know it's going to end; it's never going to get better. So, I'm going to die, and what worries me is how I'm going to die."

What bothered him most was his sense of losing control over how he would live out his final days:

Read more: Dr. Donald Low: Legalize Death with Dignity

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

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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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