This story appears in the San Diego Reader, April 25, 2018.
Last October, Bill Andrews chose to end his life on his own terms. A legend in the surfing world, Andrews had been active in the sport as recently as two years ago, until he was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Within a year and a half, he was faced with near total paralysis. Though the rate ALS progresses can vary, ultimately it paralyses every part of the body, eventually preventing the ability to breathe. By the time he obtained the medication to aid him in dying, Andrews was in an assisted living facility, essentially confined to his bed. Faced with further degeneration, Andrews decided that his death would take place on his terms, when he decided it was time.
The article details all of the steps and safeguards in place under the California law, passed in 2016, that allowed him to access the medication to end his life. These include multiple requests being made in different forms, mental health assessments, waiting periods, and ultimately that the patient be able to ingest the medication independently. Because of this law, Bill was able to die surrounded by those he loved, and had the chance to say his last goodbyes.
In an interview with his doctor, he said “I’ve kind of been a pioneer in a lot of things,” referring to his decision to share his story with the public, “I think this can do a lot of good”. As more states consider implementing Death with Dignity laws, he will hopefully be proven right.