“I would like a compassionate death.” But what does that mean?

Last week, board member Molly McMahon Graziano and I traveled to the Youngstown area to meet retired Rev. Jim Ray and his wife, Sue Anzelotti. We had corresponded quite a bit and Jim and Sue have said that they would like to help bring attention to Ohio End of Life Options’ cause. However, when we all sat down to talk, I quickly realized that we needed to define the terms we were using. Since the terminology surrounding end-of-life wishes can be quite euphemistic, I needed to make sure that we were all discussing the same things.

So when Sue said, “I would like a compassionate death”. I said, “Please tell me what that means to you”. Sue had a broad definition of what “compassionate death” meant. She referred to their experience with friends at the end of life who took control by not eating or drinking while suffering from debilitating illnesses (formally called Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking, VSED). She further related her intention of having control at the end of life by possibly refusing or stopping treatment if that scenario arises.

I clarified that while we at Ohio End of Life Options firmly believe that all of these options are important to understand, our goal is to provide education about medical aid-in-dying laws. That is when the law allows a terminally ill adult with 6 months or less to live to request and receive a prescription for medication that will end their life when the person decides on that option.

Sue and Jim agreed that this is also an option that should be available in Ohio. Since they have relatives in Colorado, they’ve followed the recent passage of their law allowing for medical aid-in-dying.

We all recognize that we need to be talking about our wishes for a compassionate death, which should include a law based on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.

Molly and I appreciated this great conversation with Sue and Jim and look forward to their efforts in the Youngstown area.

by Lisa Vigil Schattinger
4/25/17

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