She Did It Her Way…
By Leigh Ann Metheny
Some people may question me calling it a gift, but it truly was.
While nobody in my family wants to be without my mom, Pamela Dianne Jones, we also don’t want her suffering, and toward the end, her quality of life was nonexistent.
While I miss her dearly and my heart hurts, I understand her choice and I am grateful that End of Life WA was there.
Not only were they calming and respectful, they gave our family peace in the darkest of times.
Knowing it was coming put me in a constant state of grief, and I am still in that state, but it also gave me the opportunity to spend time with her, get out what was needed to be said, tell stories that needed to be heard, and gave me the opportunity to just spend time with her and care for her.
When someone is taken tragically or all of a sudden, you don’t have the opportunity, and so I feel thankful and quite frankly blessed for that opportunity.
It took me a long time to come to terms with her choice, and I am not sure I came to full term with it, but the service End of Life WA and its team provided took the anxiety of it away for me.
So again, thank you…My best friend, my mom is now at peace and went in absolute peace.
She did it her way.
To read the next article, click here
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The Stakes Are Too High To Risk Not Being Ready
Submitted by an EOLWA volunteer ambassador
Nineteen years ago, a lack of information about end-of-life choice sent my mother’s life down a tragic journey of suffering.
A lack of information that resulted in her living in a semi-vegetative state the last five years of her life, medicated and sedated to manage her daily tremors, and losing all quality of life.
It is hard to describe what it felt like to witness this kind of human suffering and know there was nothing we could do. But what was worse, was learning too late in her disease, that there were steps that could have been taken to avoid her suffering.
Steps that were never introduced to my mother by any of her care providers. Not because of ill intent, apathy, or lack of care. Quite the opposite. My mother’s doctors were wonderful at providing access to the critical resources she needed to “live” with her disease. But what they didn’t do, was provide access to what choices she had if she didn’t want to live with it.
The topic was never raised, a conversation was never encouraged and, as a result, the end of her life was heartbreaking. My mom would have wanted to know what choices she had to manage the course of her disease. She would have welcomed the chance to know how to avoid her own suffering and that of her family.
She would have openly accepted all discussion to avoid extreme measures to sustain her life if she became ill from something other than her disease, like pneumonia, a heart attack, or an infection. She would have chosen hospice care instead of curative treatment. She would have been fine talking about dying, and the end of her life. But she never got the chance to tell us, or her doctors, any of these things.
Her care team kept us all focused on keeping her alive. It is estimated that 8 out of 10 people in our state have experiences just like my mother.
They are never made aware of their end-of-life options when they become seriously ill. And because of this lack of knowledge, far too many people suffer and die badly. Even the simplest wish to die at home can be complicated if your advance directives are not clear about what kind of care you expect at the end of your life.
This is why 80 percent of people die in hospitals, even though nearly all of them wanted to die at home. They aren’t given the options of how to make that happen. It’s time to address the lack of awareness around end-of-life planning and end-of-life options.
Everyone deserves a chance to die well. This is why I’m proud to be one of many volunteers supporting the End of Life Ready campaign to help educate thousands of people in our state about how to best prepare for and manage their end-of-life wishes.
Join our End of Life Ready effort! We are actively scheduling presentations for community groups for summer and fall 2021.
If you are part of a group that would welcome an End of Life Ready presentation, or would like to suggest a community group to reach out to, please request a presentation at www.endoflifewa.org/ready or contact Rachel Haxtema by writing an email to email@example.com. To learn more about our presentations, click here.
If you would like to join our educational ambassador group as a volunteer presenter – contact Rachel or find volunteer information at www.endoflifewa.org/volunteer
To read the previous article, “Wait ‘Til Next Year,” please click here
To check out links to more content in our Spring 2021 Newsletter, click here
Donate to End of Life Washington by clicking here.
Se Habla Español: Setting goals for EOLWA in 2021 and beyond
By Sebastian Moraga
Say it with me once: Muerte Digna, (Moo-ert-ay Deeg-nah)
That’s how you pronounce “death with dignity” in Spanish. It’s pronounced a little bit different.
OK, a lot different, but its meaning is the same.
One of the changes we hope to see happen at EOLWA this year is that we can talk about both ”death with dignity” and “muerte digna” with the same ease we talk about “fútbol” and “soccer,” or about “burritos” and “burritos” but with a rolled R.
We want to hear from the Hispanic members of our community, and answer their questions and concerns and provide support with the same level of care and professionalism that EOLWA is known for.
Granted, there will be some hurdles to clear and challenges to answer. The Hispanic culture has, as every other culture does, its own set of mores and traditions.
At the same time, the influence of institutions such as the Catholic Church remains strong in many parts of Latin America. Nevertheless, signs of looming hope abound, with Colombia leading the way and with conservative nations such as Chile starting to talk about death in different terms than in the past.
Just last month, a bill was introduced in the Chilean Congress, which would have legalized “muerte digna,” or “dignified death” in that South American nation. Stop me if you’ve read this: It passed the House but it did not make it past the Senate. Same as ours in the Evergreen State.
Still, the fact that it made it that far is a huge development. And Chile is not alone in pushing forward against the weight of history. Eighty-two percent of Uruguayans say they are in favor of aid in dying and although it remains illegal in that country,
Uruguay has laws in place in which a person can reject treatment near the end of his or her life. These laws are referred to as “ley del buen morir,” or law of a good death.
Earlier this year, Peru’s highest court, in a historic decision granted Ana Estrada an assisted death, a remarkable development in a nation that is almost 90 percent Catholic and where euthanasia is illegal.
It took Estrada, a psychologist confined to her bed, five years of judicial battles, before she achieved victory. It’s clear that our Hispanic brothers and sisters have concerns regarding end of life. EOLWA is committed to traveling that path with them every step of the way, speaking their language in more ways than one.
Say it with me again, now, with feeling, with gusto: “moo-erte-ay Deeg-nah.”
To go to the previous article, “She Did It Her Way…” click here
To go to the next article, “Wait ‘Til Next Year,” click here
Express your support for EOLWA by making a donation. Click here.
Wait ’til Next Year: The Battle to Increase Access to Death With Dignity Act to Continue in 2022
An EOLWA’s State Legislature Update by Sebastian Moraga
We came so close.
After passing in the House of Representatives, HB 1141, the bill that would have updated our state’s current Death With Dignity law, headed to the Senate. It died there, but not without leaving a legacy of progress that will serve us well next year, when we try again to get it passed.
For starters, the simple fact that our bill made it out of the House is an encouraging sign. The fact that we had support from a Republican lawmaker and a Democrat lawmaker in drafting the bill (Nicole Macri (D) and Skyler Rude (R)) is also a plus.
“The bill passed out of the house on a bipartisan vote and was ready to be voted on in the Senate; we just ran out of time,” End of Life Washington’s contract lobbyist Nancy Sapiro said. Our bill took these strides in the midst of unprecedented challenges placed in our path by the pandemic that upended all of our lives.
Nevertheless, the fact that we made it as far as the Senate makes us optimistic about the future, as well as grateful for the work that people like State Reps. Rude, Macri, and Eileen Cody put forth in trying to get it passed in the House, and State Sen. Annette Cleveland in the Senate.
“It was a very challenging year for us given the virtual session and the priorities laid out by legislative leadership this session, and yet we had a great deal of success,” Sapiro said. She believes that the current law should be updated to better reflect the realities of the current practice, while keeping the core safeguards of the law in place. The existing law has been in place since 2009, and it’s working as intended for those who can access it.
Evidence suggests that the passage of the law has resulted in improved conversations between patients and physicians, better palliative care, training and improved enrollment in hospice care.
Too many eligible residents are robbed of the benefits of the law by unnecessary regulatory roadblocks. For instance, more than one-third of End of Life Washington’s clients have difficulty finding physicians to support them in accessing the law. About one-half die within the 15-day waiting period.
One-third of them come to End of Life Washington without a physician that can aid them with Death With Dignity. Thus, crafting a bill that can help us overcome these roadblocks has become essential.
“House Bill 1141 was that bill. It would allow more eligible patients to access medical aid in dying,” Sapiro said.
Bob Free, president of the board of directors of End of Life Washington, agreed, saying that passage of such legislation would “reinforce the right of Washingtonians to a dignified death, without barriers.”
House Bill 1141, if enacted into law, would have shortened the waiting time to obtain a prescription, and allow more qualified providers to support patients who want medical aid in dying. It would also have allowed patients to make the best and most timely decisions, and would have modernized the delivery of prescriptions.
The progress is a source of pride.
“Ours was the second state in the nation to adopt a Death With Dignity law in 2008, and End of Life Washington is proud to have worked for over a decade to help terminally ill residents achieve a death aligned with their values and priorities,” Free said.
He later added, “We value our collaboration with the national organization Compassion & Choices and look forward to continuing our work together.”
Sapiro echoed Free’s words, saying that the close call of 2021 will only fuel next year’s efforts in Olympia and across the state.
“We may have fallen short this session but we will be back and intend to get it across the finish line in 2022,” Sapiro said.
To read the previous article, “Se Habla Español,” click here
To read the next article, “The Stakes Are Too High To Risk Not Being Ready,” click here.
Help us sprint across that finish line next year by making a donation now. Click here.
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