New board member Ann Rowland, retired Assistant U.S. Attorney, shares her story.
I retired last January after 37 years as a federal prosecutor in Cleveland. Among other cases, I was in charge of successfully prosecuting former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora and 65 others for bribery and other crimes in the Cuyahoga County corruption investigation.
After retiring, I gave myself a year to find a cause that was meaningful and for which I could make a difference. When I learned about Ohio End of Life Options, I knew I had found that match. I recently joined its Board of Directors and plan to work actively to support its mission to raise awareness about medical aid in dying and to advocate for a death with dignity law for the terminally ill in Ohio.
Over the last dozen years, I have taken care of many relatives as they were dying. Most were “good deaths” achieved with the assistance of incredible hospice nurses and doctors. But two were not.
My father-in-law, Bob, spent his last two weeks of life intubated in an intensive care unit with no viable options for recovery from congestive heart failure. My brother-in-law, John, who fought brain cancer for seven years, was finally told that no further treatments were available. Facing certain incapacity and death, John came to live with my husband and me. I considered it a great honor to help care for him in his final months, though it was difficult. Four of those six months were fairly serene, but the last two months were horrendous for him, even with the help of the best hospice care. John could not take care of the most basic functions. This, combined with his growing confusion about his physical limitations, led to several painful injuries.
These experiences left a deep impression on me. I decided that even though John and Bob had no options to end their suffering, I would want them if I were facing something similar. I’ve been in total control of all of my health care decisions so far. I don’t want to be deprived of that power as I am dying.
While I know that my family would not consider caring for me to be a burden, I don’t want my husband or my children to be faced with caring for me if I am suffering and there is no hope for recovery. I want my final days to be filled with peace and celebration.
Ohioans, and all people, deserve the option of death with dignity so that they and their doctors have more options and control when facing imminent death from a terminal illness. Aid in dying, in addition to quality hospice care, should be an end-of-life option in Ohio and in states around the country. I look forward to working with Ohio End of Life Options to ensure all qualified terminally ill Ohioans can die in their own time and on their own terms.