As America is facing a period of grief and loss caused by Covid-19, I’m taking a moment to remember my stepfather Jack who died back in 2014. October 8 was his birthday. And as anyone who has lost a loved one knows, these special days give us a moment to pause and be thankful for the role they played in our lives.

Recently I was able to remember the role Jack played posthumously in advocating for Medical Aid in Dying among his fellow physicians in 2015. In August I reached out to Benzi Kluger, MD, whose piece “Medical Aid in Living” was published in JAMA Neurology. I told him that I was so impressed by the way that he captured both the spirit of those who choose Medical Aid in Dying and the essence of the issue itself.

Jack Rowe’s Celebration of Life, Oct. 2014. He asked everyone to tell a funny story about him. He wanted no tears, just good memories. (Jack is seated, wearing a navy blue vest.)

I shared with Dr. Kluger that I had been with my stepfather, retired neurologist Jack Rowe, when he died using the medication made available through Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. And that Jack felt strongly that doctors should recognize the option as a way for them to act with compassion toward their patients who were suffering at the end of their lives. My family was thankful when Jack’s thoughts were published posthumously in JAMA in a piece entitled Beliefs.

Dr. Kluger replied saying, [I] “recall reading Jack’s very moving and personal commentary when it came out.” He also said that he plans to get involved in working toward legislation in his state. That was a special moment for me. The road to advocacy on this issue has not always been easy. However, knowing that Jack’s life, thoughts and death have made a difference is a meaningful affirmation. 

If you feel strongly about your end-of-life wishes and want to advocate to ensure more options are available to you and others, please consider sharing your thoughts. You may be influencing people for years to come. Visit our Take Action page for tips on how you can share your story or write letters to the editor of your favorite publications.

Lisa Vigil Schattinger
Founder and Executive Director
Ohio End of Life Options

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