The Last Chapter
Dr. Erika Bliss
November 13, 2019
“The role of the physician, of any healthcare provider, any healer, but especially a physician, is that we are supposed to not only help heal people but also reduce suffering.”
Dr. Erika Bliss, a Seattle-based family physician, had always felt a lack of awareness and training in the medical profession around end of life. But it was after Dr. Bliss experienced her own patient nervously bring up Death with Dignity that she became passionate about normalizing the conversation. She believes that talking about end-of-life planning should be part of routine care—a discussion that happens early and empowers people to take control.
“If you have those conversations early on, in a nonjudgmental way and you just open the door to say, what are your preferences? And just let them tell you and make it a very routine thing, it works really well.”
However, for a lot of doctors, there can be a reluctance to get involved. Sometimes, it’s policy or personal belief that holds them back. Other times, it’s a lack of understanding about the Death with Dignity process.
That’s where Dr. Bliss knows End of Life Washington can help. End of Life Washington provides valuable education resources, helps patients navigate the process, and works with communities and doctors to protect people’s access to Death with Dignity. And for the people who contact them, End of Life Washington is there to help every step of the way—assigning well-trained volunteers who are passionate and providing invaluable assistance to people facing terminal illnesses.
By sharing her story, Dr. Bliss hopes that more physicians will follow her lead and educate their patients on the full range of end-of-life options that are available.
“The relief…the gratefulness that people express when you get them set up for Death with Dignity—whether or not they end up using it, because not everybody does—but just knowing they have that option, you would not believe the amount of suffering that reduces for them.”
The Last Chapter: Profiles
After his cancer diagnosis, Charlie knew continuing painful radiation treatment wasn't right for him. He found control over his story by better understanding all of his end-of-life options, including his right to Death with Dignity.
Linda spent her father's last day fighting through her emotions and doing everything she could to support his choice to control his last chapter. Now, she works to make Death with Dignity more accessible to all who need it.