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Holly Berg: Right to Choose

Holly Berg is a healthcare professional in Lakeville, Massachusetts.

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My mom Ione Cheryl passed away on October 10 this year. She was diagnosed with leukemia less than a year ago. She made a decision to fight and did everything possible to live. She went through chemotherapy, and searched for a bone-marrow transplant. We felt so lucky she found a donor and underwent a successful surgery last March. But after a series of complications she found herself back at the hospital with doctors saying she was terminal. They said nothing could be done except make her comfortable and that she would die peacefully three or four days after stopping treatment. But she hung on for 10 days in pain, experiencing a death no human being should have to. I sat in her hospital room, feeling totally helpless to do anything for her.

I know that if she’d had the choice of Death with Dignity my mom would have chosen it for herself just as she made all the other decisions in her life. If we’d had a Death with Dignity law in Massachusetts, my mom would not have to go through all the pain and suffering she did. This is not how she wanted to die and should have had the choice about how her life was going to end at this point. We as a family would not have had to watch her and feel totally helpless to do anything.

After watching my mom die, I decided to get involved in the Death with Dignity movement. On Tuesday, October 27, I called my State Representative who told me there was a hearing at the Commonwealth that day. He invited me to come testify at the hearing about why I think physician-assisted dying should be a law in our state. I got dressed and went. I feel like maybe my mom was looking down saying, “Get yourself out of that bed and do something.”

I know that if she’d had the choice of Death with Dignity my mom would have chosen it for herself just as she made all the other decisions in her life.

I sat in the hearing room crying as I listened to all the people who’d had similar experiences to ours. I heard a lot of others who are opposed to this say that we need to make people aware of palliative care instead of assisted death by a physician. My mom did receive palliative care but she was still in pain and suffered a horrible death.

I had no idea what to say. I typed my testimony on my smartphone and when they called me up I read it to the panel. Until you experience this first hand you may not totally understand the need for this bill to be passed. We all should have the right to choose how our life ends.

(October 2015)

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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is once again considering a Death with Dignity bill. Modeled on the Oregon law, H 1994, Compassionate Care for the Terminally Ill Act, would give terminally ill people more freedom, control, and peace of mind at the end of their lives. Urge your state legislators to support the bill!

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