New Memoir: Wild and Precious Life by Deborah Ziegler

“In WILD AND PRECIOUS LIFE, a poignant memoir, Brittany Maynard’s mother, Deborah Ziegler, carries forward her daughter’s legacy by sharing their story. In alternating chapters, beginning with the initial diagnosis, Ziegler interweaves the mostly untold tale of her daughter’s final year, with the story of Brittany’s life from infancy to young adulthood. The message that emerges is that while we can’t control the hand fate delivers, we can decide how we play it.”
Simon & Schuster’s website for Wild and Precious Life

Archbishop Desmond Tutu clarifies his own wishes

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: When my time comes, I want the option of an assisted death, Opinion, by Desmond Tutu, The Washington Post, October 6, 2016

Desmond Tutu is archbishop emeritus of Cape Town and a Nobel Peace laureate.

Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to have spent my time working for dignity for the living. I have campaigned passionately for people in my country and the world over to have their God-given rights.

‘Our right to an assisted death’
(To play the video – click on the link posted above)
I have been fortunate to have long spent my time working for dignity for the living. Now, with my life closer to its end than its beginning, I wish to help give people dignity in dying. (Dignity in Dying and Compassion & Choices)

Now, as I turn 85 Friday, with my life closer to its end than its beginning, I wish to help give people dignity in dying. Just as I have argued firmly for compassion and fairness in life, I believe that terminally ill people should be treated with the same compassion and fairness when it comes to their deaths. Dying people should have the right to choose how and when they leave Mother Earth. I believe that, alongside the wonderful palliative care that exists, their choices should include a dignified assisted death.

There have been promising developments as of late in California and Canada , where the law now allows assisted dying for terminally ill people, but there are still many thousands of dying people across the world who are denied their right to die with dignity. Two years ago, I announced the reversal of my lifelong opposition to assisted dying in an op-ed in the Guardian. But I was more ambiguous about whether I personally wanted the option, writing: “I would say I wouldn’t mind.” Today, I myself am even closer to the departures hall than arrivals, so to speak, and my thoughts turn to how I would like to be treated when the time comes. Now more than ever, I feel compelled to lend my voice to this cause.

I believe in the sanctity of life. I know that we will all die and that death is a part of life. Terminally ill people have control over their lives, so why should they be refused control over their deaths? Why are so many instead forced to endure terrible pain and suffering against their wishes?

I have prepared for my death and have made it clear that I do not wish to be kept alive at all costs. I hope I am treated with compassion and allowed to pass on to the next phase of life’s journey in the manner of my choice.

Regardless of what you might choose for yourself, why should you deny others the right to make this choice? For those suffering unbearably and coming to the end of their lives, merely knowing that an assisted death is open to them can provide immeasurable comfort.

I welcome anyone who has the courage to say, as a Christian, that we should give dying people the right to leave this world with dignity. My friend Lord Carey, the former archbishop of Canterbury, has passionately argued for an assisted-dying law in Britain. His initiative has my blessing and support — as do similar initiatives in my home country, South Africa, throughout the United States and across the globe.

In refusing dying people the right to die with dignity, we fail to demonstrate the compassion that lies at the heart of Christian values. I pray that politicians, lawmakers and religious leaders have the courage to support the choices terminally ill citizens make in departing Mother Earth. The time to act is now.

Support in Ohio Grows!

This was the last email update from Ohio End of Life Options on 9/16/16.

In less than one month the outlook for Ohio is looking up.  

Supporters have been galvanized by the news that Ohio Senator Charleta Tavares (D – Columbus) is planning to introduce death with dignity style legislation in 2017. I took a road trip to meet advocates in the Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton areas and spoke at the invitation of the Tri-State Freethinkers in Newport, KY on September 7. They are a wonderfully informed and action-oriented group of supporters. That trip was topped off by my first phone call with Senator Tavares. It was a short call but I was able to share with her how grateful I and many Ohioans are to her.

One of those supporters is Doris Yamarick of Circleville. She is passionate about medical aid-in-dying since her husband, Wally, died with ALS in 1999. She understands the importance of strong, moderate bi-partisan support for the legislation so she contacted her Representative, Gary Scherer (R – District 92), who plans to look further into this issue.

On Monday, September 12, I was honored to address the Cleveland Clinic Bioethics community as a part of their Grand Rounds lecture series (which earn continuing medical education units for those attending). In addition to the group attending, my lecture was broadcast live to their subsidiary hospitals.  It was attended by Ethics Fellows and faculty, as well as representatives from Palliative Medicine, Hospice, End-of-Life Specialists and philosophers from throughout Northeast Ohio. Clearly there has been a lot of thought put into this important and sensitive issue. Thank you to Dr. Paul Ford for including this topic.

Stay involved!
* We are planning more educational events, so bring friends.
* Ask for a meeting with your legislator and invite a member of Ohio End of Life Options to speak. This was very effective when Judith Allen organized a meeting with her Representative Nickie Antonio (D – Lakewood) and interested residents of Cleveland’s Detroit Shoreway area and I shared my 20 minute PowerPoint presentation and answered questions.
* Host a showing of the award-winning documentary: How to Die in Oregon. Available on Netflix or through local libraries.
* Approach local groups, such as Rotary Clubs, to organize speaking opportunities.

Thank you to Nancy and Tom Seitz who donated $500 following our last email blast! In addition to their donation, supporters contributed $600 to help continue our education and outreach activities. We thank you!

Consider sharing your thoughts about medical aid-in-dying. It’s important to show a community of support for this issue all throughout Ohio. You can post thoughts on our website OhioOptions.org and on Facebook: Ohio End of Life Options. You can also write a letter to the editor in your local paper.

Thank you again for your support.
Lisa Vigil Schattinger,
Founder and Executive Director

Cleveland Clinic Bioethics Department learns about Medical Aid-In-Dying

Thank you to the Cleveland Clinic Bioethics Department for hosting Lisa Vigil Schattinger at their Grand Rounds lectures series on Monday, September 12. Important discussion of Medical Aid-In-Dying safeguards and concerns were addressed through the story of Dr. Jack Rowe. Dr. Rowe, Vigil Schattinger’s stepfather, used Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act in November 2014 to end his life peacefully after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. The lecture was followed by a small round table discussion in the ethics department. It was attended by ethics fellows and faculty, as well as representatives from Palliative medicine, Hospice, End-of-Life Specialists and philosophers from throughout Northeast Ohio. There was a lot of thoughtful discussion during the question and answer period.
schattinger-flyer-grand-rounds-9-12-16

Tri-State Freethinkers host Medical Aid-In-Dying & Final Exit Speakers

The Tri-State Freethinkers hosted an event called Dying With Dignity & Final Exit: Two very different approaches to the same issue in Newport, KY on September 7. Lisa Vigil Schattinger of Ohio End of Life Options and Robert Rivas of Final Exit were invited to speak. The room was filled with people concerned about end-of-life issues. There was a great conversation as the Freethinkers asked questions about Medical Aid-In-Dying laws and the work of Final Exit. Thank you to Tri-State Freethinkers for addressing these important issues. This was especially timely since Senator Charleta Tavares was quoted on September 4 in a Columbus Dispatch article as planning on introducing medical Aid-In-Dying legislation in Ohio in 2017. Ohio End of Life Options advocates for laws based on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. Education is key in understanding the effective safeguards built into these laws in OR, WA, VT & CA.tri-state-audience tri-state

Senator Charleta Tavares plans Medical Aid-in-Dying legislation in 2017

Ohio Senator Charleta Tavares (D – District 15, Assistant Minority Leader) plans to introduce legislation in 2017.

Lisa Vigil Schattinger, Liz Nuechterlein and Rev. Patricia Shelden met with her senior aide in April 2015 to bring education about Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act and share Vigil Schattinger’s experience.

This article in today’s Columbus Dispatch, “Chronic pain’s emotional toll can lead to suicide,” focuses on chronic pain and its relationship to suicide because September is the extremely important Suicide Prevention Awareness month. The articles continues on to explore medical aid-in-dying.

“A debate on the controversial law could begin in Ohio as early as next year, when state Sen. Charleta Tavares, D-Columbus, plans to introduce a version of the Death with Dignity Act. She met this year with advocates for the law and is convinced people with terminal illness or those with irreversible conditions that cause them to suffer should have the option to end their life.

“It’s time to have this discussion in our state, and we shouldn’t be afraid of that,” Tavares said. “I don’t want to see people suffer. I want people to have an expiration that meets their physical needs, their spiritual needs and their families’ needs.

“If they don’t want to continue life, because of their pain, that should be their decision and their right to make it. It would help stop a lot of these horrible deaths we see where people end life with violent means, and that’s so hard on families.”

Write to Senator Tavares and your own state legislators expressing your support for a Death with Dignity style law in Ohio. Representative Nickie Antonio (D – District 13, Minority Whip) also expressed willingness to move forward with legislation.

Board Member, Mark Weber, eloquently expresses his thoughts on support of death with dignity style legislation

Several weeks ago, I turned 70. This “magic number” made me think about how much time I have left and what will be the life quality of those years.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 55% of us will die from some kind of terminal illness. A terminal illness is an incurable and irreversible condition that will more than likely cause death within a relatively short period of time. Chief among the medical conditions that are likely to do us in are heart disease, cancers, pulmonary diseases, infections, and organ failures. The suffering may involve searing pain and discomfort.

There are some people who want every possible medical intervention or treatment to keep them functioning as long as possible. However, there are others (and the number is growing) who do not want to be artificially kept alive when there is no hope of any kind of recovery. In other words, there is a growing number of people who want to be able to choose a dignified death over the alternative of simply existing on medication until the body’s final breakdown comes.

I believe they should have that right.

Right now, only California, Washington, Oregon, and Vermont offer citizens the right to choose a peaceful and dignified death. These laws were approved by a referendum of citizens. Montana offers the same through a judicial decision.

Religious conservatives decry this as suicide. They are wrong. Suicide is about choosing death over life and is often motivated by a condition such as depression. Often, conditions like depression can be treated so that the person can lead a relatively normal life.

However, a terminally-ill person, by definition, is in the act of dying and therefore does not have the choice of life over death. Instead, the only choice they have is one type of death over another.

Brittany Maynard was a 29 year old teacher from California (before California passed its death with dignity law). She moved to Oregon to take advantage of its law which allowed her to choose a dignified death rather than being artificially kept alive during which the terminal cancer would have made her last few months a living hell. Compassion and Choices is a national organization that pushes for death with dignity laws.

Here in Ohio, Ohio End of Life Options (OELO) is an organization that is working for an “Oregon-type law” in Ohio. OELO also wants dying patients to be offered all possible options for the last few weeks or months of their life…including a death with dignity option.

Generally, in order to qualify under death with dignity laws in the few states where they exist, patients must meet the following conditions:

  1. They must be terminally ill with no hope of recovery.
  2. They must be of sound mind so that they can make an intelligent decision.
  3. They must be able to self administer the drug that would painlessly take their life.

Death is a subject about which no one likes to speak. However, if the last civil right is the right of a terminally ill person to choose a peaceful and dignified death, then we all need to work for a law like the one in Oregon and we need to make our last wishes known to both loved ones and caregivers so that we can have the death we want.

Mark W. Weber
June 15, 2016

Our first grant

From left: Doug Schattinger, Lisa Vigil Schattinger, Annie & Rick Hubbard

Ohio End of Life Options has received its first grant.

The Hubbard Family Foundation has generously given $1,000 as seed money to support our group’s efforts in educational outreach about death with dignity-style laws.

Rick and Annie Hubbard said, “We believe that mentally fully functioning adults should have at their disposal the complete range of options to complete their lives with the same sense of pride and dignity that they lived it. The development of hospice care, advance care directives and health care proxies have improved all of our abilities to continue to live and die in ways that are most comfortable to ourselves.

“Development of Death with Dignity laws will further enhance our abilities to complete each of our lives in our way. We are very proud and pleased to be able to support Ohio End of Life Options.”

Please join the Hubbards in supporting Ohio End of Life Options’ efforts by donating today!

Speaking at Mayo Clinic’s Annual National Hematology/Oncology Review Course

Lisa Vigil Schattinger and her mother, Janet Rowe, were invited to share Dr. Jack Rowe’s experience with Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act at Mayo Clinic’s 26th Annual National Hematology/Oncology Review Course on Amelia Island, Florida.

LisaVS_Mayo_Clinic

Surveying doctors on death with dignity

Dr. Gerardo Colon-Otero, medical oncologist with the Mayo Clinic Florida, included a new section called “Controversies in End of Life Care” at this annual conference. He also invited Dr. Ken Brummel-Smith, Professor of Geriatrics at Florida State University and a family practice physician, to present on “Aid in Dying for Individuals with Terminal Illness: A Human Right or a Slippery Slope?” Dr. Colon-Otero included the following pre and post session questions:

1. I believe that physician assisted death as approved in Oregon should be allowed:

  • Pre-test answers (65 participants on 7/28/16): Yes – 43%, No – 36%, Not sure – 21%
  • Post-test answers (31 participants on 7/29/16): Yes – 54%, No – 12%, Not sure – 35%

2. If asked by a terminal cancer patient to participate in physician assisted death in a state where it is legal, I would:

  • Pre-test answers (61 participants on 7/28/16): Decline – 31%, Agree – 31%, Think about it – 38%
  • Post-test answers (35 participants on 7/29/16): Decline – 21%, Agree – 38%, Think about it – 41%

3. I would like to have access to physician assisted death for myself if I ever face a terminal illness with no hope of recovery associated with intractable pain and suffering:

  • Pre-test answers (61 participants on 7/28/16): True – 45%, False – 27%, Not sure – 27%
  • Post-test answers (32 participants on 7/29/16): True – 65%, False – 24%, Not sure – 12%

While this conference was open to all medically related personnel, the questions were targeted toward physicians since they are the ones who would write the prescriptions. There were approximately 100 people attending the Friday, 7/29, session though only about a third of that number responded to the post session questions. Dr. Colon-Otero said that these results ”show the need for more education on this important topic.”

The good things

Following the formal Q&A session, quite a few people with questions and comments approached Lisa and Janet. One oncologist who is also an ethicist mentioned that she could not get over the concept that if she writes a prescription for a patient, she expects it to bring about “good things”. With regard to this, Dr. Rowe felt strongly that the prescription that he would use to end his life in the face of his terminal illness was bringing about good. He felt strongly that there were worse things than death and that dying with control and choice was a good outcome.

Discussions on legislative activity in Ohio

Lisa Vigil Schattinger and her mother, Janet Rowe, presented to two fantastic groups while Janet visited from Oregon in July. In addition to Janet’s experience with her husband, Dr. Jack Rowe, using Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act in 2014, Janet is a retired RN. She currently volunteers with Compassion & Choices and has been a Hospice volunteer for 20 years, following her sister’s death from complications of breast cancer.

Janet_Rowe

First came the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church’s Elder Support Group, hosted by Paul Foster and Sally Follett. Then came the LGBT Cleveland Community Center’s SAGE Group, hosted by Mary Beth Bartholomew.

Both of these opportunities came about after introductions by Judith Allen and the Rev. Mary Grigolia. These meetings led to full and comprehensive discussions about the current state of death with dignity style laws as well as activity happening in Ohio.  Additionally, end-of-life planning topics such as advance directives, appointing healthcare proxies and the option of VSED (Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking) were explored.  The importance of open communication with loved ones, support systems and medical communities is always paramount in these discussion.