How June unfolded in service to EOLWA clients
By Chris Fruitrich/Volunteer Client Adviser
What follows is a much-abbreviated summary of this volunteer’s work with clients seeking information on the Death with Dignity law. While there is no “average” month (June in this case) in a volunteer’s life, this would be typical for many. To maintain confidentiality, names and sometimes genders have been changed, and all locations or other identifying elements expunged.
June 2: June, who has been with me since April, called to see where she stood. I explained that the medication would be ready within four days. We would talk eight more times in June as her comprehension faded. At month’s end she signed off by asking when we were meeting for dinner. She lost her opportunity to use the law due to diminished mental capacity.
June 4: Mark had decided against Death with Dignity in May because his organs could not be donated. After I told him his corneas and tissue could be donated, he promised to update me on his status. Our last conversation was difficult as his comprehension was greatly diminished. He remains undecided, despite worsening neurological symptoms.
June 7: I’ve been working with Mary since March and she selected today to die. At her home I found an emaciated soul barely able to communicate and utterly defeated by cancer. She wept as she gave voice to her struggle. In the end, she ingested her medication and died just 23 minutes later.
June 10: Clint already had his medication and wanted our help on the day of his death. This was someone who fought for the betterment of the human condition his entire-but-too-short life. He was resigned to the loss of the cancer fight but refused to go easily. He took his medication like a trooper (with help from only two spoons of sorbet against the horrible-tasting brew) then nodded off and spent five hours deciding to die. “He won’t go easily,” said his wife. “He’s fought hard all his life.”
June 22: I met with new Wanda and spouse via Facetime. She wants to use Death with Dignity as soon as possible, but her physicians will not help. Dr. Bob Wood arranges for doctors who must either visit or contact them via tele-medicine because of the pain involved in traveling to a medical office. Both expressed their appreciation over and over. “You have lifted such a heavy weight off me,” she said. She plans to take her medications in August.
June 22: New client Dorothy calls for help, has no doctor, and cannot use any technology for meetings. The next day Dr. Wood arranges for a doctor who will see Dorothy, and I recommend they ask for referral to a hospice that can provide a consulting physician. After multiple phone calls, she has decided on an early-August death.
June 24: Daughter of Catherine – with whom I worked in 2015 but who didn’t use the law – calls to say her mother wants to take her medication now. This was a complicated case with siblings at odds, including one who called Adult Protective Services to stop the Death with Dignity process.
June 26: I accept new Fred and call his son. We walk through the Death with Dignity process, and the son says his parent’s doctor will not participate by writing the prescription for Death with Dignity.
June 28: Fred’s son calls to say his dad’s doctor reversed course and will help. All went smoothly and his prescription was sent to the pharmacy three weeks later. On the day the prescription was delivered, I called to check with the son and was told his father had “been comatose for three days” and would not use the law.
June 29: Catherine’s daughter calls to say death is imminent, and her mother is unable to avail herself of the Death with Dignity law.
(We plan to continue publishing stories about the work done in the field by End of Life Washington’s volunteer client advisers. Watch our newsletter, website, and emails for more.)
One volunteer’s month in numbers
9 – Active clients
5 – New clients (9 active clients total)
18 – Client encounters (Contacts by phone, text, email, or in-person)
11.8 hours- Time spent on client encounters
12.4 hours – Other time (doctor contacts, research, EOLWA projects, etc.)
2 – Death with Dignity deaths
3 – Natural deaths