Recently we asked supporters like you to share your personal connection to the death with dignity movement and what death with dignity means to you. We received a number of insightful, impassioned, and heartfelt responses. Through their experiences and connection to the cause varied greatly, everyone who shared their story emphasized the importance of personal choice, quality of life over quantity, and granting to all what should be a basic human right: the ability to determine the time and manner of one’s death.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
I became a death with dignity advocate after my experience with my late husband, John, being diagnosed with lung cancer at age 47 and his passing at age 48. He passed on December 10, 2017 after being diagnosed officially in May of that year. It was a time of complete sorrow but we did what we could for us and our two daughters with the time he had left.
We made the best of it, even with the toll on his body and our roller coaster of emotions and numerous hospital stays. I did my own research and had to rely on what I learned more so than of what was told to us for the stages of this disease. I do not feel my husband had a death with dignity. Quality over quantity is a way of thinking for me and I wish that my husband had a choice, knowing the outcome, to pass peacefully in his sleep at least a month before he died.
I worked in home health care for almost 18 years. I saw the signs of unnecessary suffering. That is the key word, unnecessary. Not only does the loved one diagnosed suffer, the loved ones left behind also suffer more than they should. If I can help [a law] pass in Maine by telling our story, it is something I am willing to share.
I know that John would have liked the option and I certainly also know that I would. I promised our children that this needs to happen so they never have to go through that again and that others will not have to go through what they did. A peaceful death with dignity is something we should all have the right to choose.
Lynne Jordan, Maine
I am 63 years old. At this point in time, I am quite healthy. However, I know how quickly circumstances change. People close to me have had to endure a slow and painful death. I do not want to be one of those people. I joined Death with Dignity because I want to be proactive by knowing what my options are.
Betty Weber, North Dakota
My husband, Mark, was diagnosed on July 1, 2015 with pancreatic cancer. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to go through the fight of trying to beat cancer. With his family in mind he made the decision to try. He went through chemo, radiation, and surgery.
It looked like treatment worked. His three-month check up post-surgery was good, though he never felt “right” after surgery. A month later, the cancer returned and was more aggressive than ever. He lived only two weeks once the cancer came back.
I watched as he slowly deteriorated. Although I don’t think he “suffered,” I know he “struggled” those last two weeks of his life. He was being given morphine on the hour at the end and it was heartbreaking to see him slip away. I know because of our prior conversations that he would have chosen death with dignity if he’d had the chance. And I would have supported that choice. I wouldn’t wish what he went through at the end of his life on anyone. He went from a vibrant, full of life, funny, handsome man to a shell of his former self.
I so wish that every state had the option to choose death with dignity. It’s the humane choice.
Sue McAulay, Michigan
I am currently not diagnosed with a terminal illness. Having said that, this can change any moment, for me and for anyone. I have volunteered as a hospice companion and I have watched both strangers and loved ones die. To be in control of our death, in the face of known prognosis, is every individual’s right. No one should be forced to continue in an existence that causes pain for all involved. We are not just thinking about the one who is dying, but those who care and love that individual. Death with dignity is a must for the human race.
Tracy Murphy, California
As a 77 -year-old retired Emergency Department nurse, I saw too many people endure terrible pain in the process of dying. I don’t want this to happen to me or anyone else. We should have the right to use medications to end our life if we wish.
Doris Vician, New Mexico
My mother was an extremely proud woman. She always told me as she grew older she never wanted anyone changing her diapers or feeding her. When she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, dependent on oxygen and eventually bedridden, she found a physician that would help her with the End of Life Option Act in California. During the last two weeks of her life, she had the time to say goodbye. She had time to say “I love you” and reminisced about the memories in her life. It was a beautiful thing to witness. She knew the day and time she was going to die. Who ever has that option? She left this world after 85 wonderful years with her dignity and the love and respect she deserved.
Karen Scorsur, California
I have no story – yet – but I want my story to be that I was able to die with dignity and free from pain, should I find myself with a debilitating terminal disease. I wish for that option for everybody. The freedom to decide upon the manner of passing should be ours by right.
Leslie Boyland, California