The defining personal experience that led to the creation of Ohio End of Life Options happened on the other side of the country, in Oregon. Medical aid in dying for the terminally ill has been legal in Oregon since the passage of the Death with Dignity Act in 1994. Enacted in 1998, It was the first such law passed in this country. Over 20 years have passed since that first state law and now ONE in FIVE Americans live in a jurisdiction with access to medical aid in dying.
In Ohio, we have come a long way in the last six years. Read on for a brief history of our organization and its accomplishments.
The Timeline of Ohio End of Life Options
November 11, 2014
Lisa Vigil Schattinger was at her stepfather, Dr. Jack Rowe’s bedside in Oregon when he ended his life legally, using the medication made available through Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. Dr. Rowe was open with family and friends about his terminal diagnosis of Myelodysplastic Syndrome, as well as his plan to use Oregon’s law. Surrounded by family and on the day of his choosing, Dr. Rowe’s death was peaceful and exactly as he planned. Lisa and her mother were grateful that he died without suffering any further.
Following Jack’s death, Lisa decided to share her family’s experience and bring fact-based education to Ohio about the value of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. Lisa was raised on the west coast and has lived abroad, but has called Ohio home for almost 25 years. She was compelled to work to bring this law to Ohio and believes all Americans should have access to medical aid in dying.
December: The Cleveland Plain Dealer publishes Lisa Vigil Schattinger’s opinion piece, “A loved one ends his life with the help of the Death with Dignity law”. It is shared widely on social media. In Medford, Oregon Jack Rowe’s home town paper the Mail Tribune also publishes it on 12/17/2014. It inspires the Reverend John Tucker, of the Medford First United Methodist Church to use as the basis of his sermon “The Right to Die”. He finishes by reading the account of Jack Rowe’s last day and concluded, “I do not buy the argument that God should control our deaths.” He goes on to say, “I don’t think I have a right to demand upon those that I love that they fight and they fight and they fight, even as they suffer.”
February: The Columbus Dispatch publishes Vigil Schattinger’s “Letter to the Editor: Terminally ill deserve ultimate decision”.
March: Northeast Ohio’s NPR program, The Sound of Ideas features Death with Dignity. Along with Dr. Charles Wellman, Chief Medical Officer of Hospice of the Western Reserve, Lisa is interviewed by host Mike McIntyre as a guest sharing her family’s story.
The national organization Compassion & Choices spotlights Lisa for her activism in Ohio. It is the first time since 2011 that Ohio had been highlighted.
April: Lisa, Liz Nuechterlein, and Rev. Patricia Shelden meet with 15th District Ohio State Senate Minority Leader Charleta Tavares’s Senior Aide, Antwan Booker, to raise awareness of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act and the importance of this option for terminally ill Ohioans.
Lisa and Rev. Shelden present the first public meeting raising awareness of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act at the First Unitarian Church in Shaker Heights, Ohio.
May: The Phoenix, Arizona Republic publishes Ms. Vigil Schattinger’s opinion piece, “Give death the dignity it deserves”. Lisa and her family are from Phoenix. She and her mother were caregivers for friends and family members in Phoenix at the end of their lives so Lisa wants to add to the discussion there.
September: The Journal of the American Medical Association posthumously publishes Dr. Rowe’s essay “Beliefs”, an opinion about assisted death, including his call for the American Medical Association to review its code of medical ethics. On the same day, Rowe’s wife, Jan, and friends had already planned to spread his ashes on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon.
February: Lisa speaks at The Florida Society of Clinical Oncology’s Business of Oncology Summit in Puerto Rico.
March: Ohio End of Life Options becomes a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization. Informal meetings lead to a dedicated group forming a steering committee for Ohio End of Life Options. This group raises awareness about end-of-life options as well as continues the discussion about laws based on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. This education is accomplished through presentations to civic, faith, medical, and political communities.
April: Lisa joins the board of Death with Dignity National Center. She is also a panelist at the American Health Care Journalist, Health Journalism 2016 conference panel discussion, “Good Death” in Cleveland.
July: Lisa speaks at the 26th Annual Mayo Clinic Hematology Oncology Reviews conference in Florida.
September: Lisa presents a Bioethics Grand Rounds at the Cleveland Clinic.
Throughout the year Lisa and Molly McMahon Graziano, the new Director of Education and Outreach, organize Ohio End of Life Options and speak to local groups throughout Ohio.
April: Lisa hosts a breakout session alongside Paul Ford, Director of NeuroEthics at the Cleveland Clinic, at the 27th Annual Bioethics Network of Ohio Conference.
January: SB 249 is introduced into the 132nd Ohio General Assembly by Senator Charleta Tavares. SB 249 is based on Oregon’s model Death with Dignity Act. It’s assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and Senator Tavares gives Sponsor testimony in April 2018. Though it received no further hearings, Senator Tavares was able to start the discussion in Ohio and appeared on Face the State with Scott Light. Lisa and Senator Tavares are interviewed by Mike McIntyre on WCPN’s The Sound of Ideas and Lisa is a guest on WOSU’s All Sides with Ann Fisher.
Senator Tavares was term-limited at the end of 2018 and the bill did not advance. Ohio End of Life Options is currently seeking legislators to reintroduce medical aid in dying legislation.
Today Lisa is joined by colleagues Molly McMahon Graziano, retired Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Rowland, and Dr. Maryjo Prince-Paul to provide fact-based education to different groups across Ohio. Page through our online, interactive Annual Report 2019-2020 to learn about our recent work.
Early History of Aid in Dying in Ohio
In 1905 and 1906, Ohio legislators introduced bills legalizing euthanasia. These were defeated. No other legislation has been proposed since. The national organization Hemlock Society was active in Ohio for some time. When it split in 2003 to become Compassion & Choices and Final Exit Network, a chapter of the former was active in Northeast Ohio until 2011. The departure of both organizations left a void in Northeast Ohio for providing education about end-of-life options.