“Often, by the time a person is considering medical aid-in-dying, they can’t manage the process. It isn’t an instant process by design. There are numerous steps that take considerable effort and time. Too many medical providers and systems withhold information, further complicating a challenging process. This shouldn’t be such a mystery. An End of Life Washington volunteer is often the first person to tell the patient, ‘We are going to help you get help.’” ~ Deborah North, MD
Deborah North, MD, grew up with a raging liberal mother who left plant watering instructions on Hemlock Society Post-It Notes in the 1980s. Deborah came to Seattle and finished her residency at the University of Washington. She moved to Mount Vernon in 1982 and never left.
When the Death with Dignity Act was first implemented in 2009, Deborah emerged as a volunteer helper in the Bellingham area. She is now a palliative care physician with Hospice of the Northwest who also volunteers after hours to support End of Life Washington clients across the state.
For the past 13 years, Deborah has continued to do whatever it takes to fill in the gaps, including being Aunt B’s prescribing physician from the other part of the state.
“I continue to do this work to support patients and family members deal with everything from concerns and misinformation, to dealing with unsupportive family members.”
“I love being a part of a team of volunteers who provide information and support. I like that we are always asking clients and their family members, ‘are you doing ok?’ I am in awe of the volunteer client advisors who devote hours of time educating family members and being present, sitting vigil with family members.”
When there are fewer helpers available, as was true for Aunt B, people often play multiple roles. From Bellingham, Deborah was the prescribing physician, while Carol (link to story) played an active dual role as both the volunteer client advisor (VCA) and consulting physician (CP).
It takes extraordinary and well-trained people to be present and to guide clients and their loved ones through the aid-in-dying process. Deborah’s story is just one of many ways your charitable contributions allow us to continue to provide support for a full range of end-of-life choices free of charge. To support access to end-of-life choices, click the donate button below.
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