Bilingual Videos of Latina with Multiple Myeloma Urges Passage of Medical Aid-in-Dying Laws Nationwide

Las Vegas Mom Urges Lawmakers in Home State of Nevada, Other States to Expand End-of-Life Care Options for Dying Americans
April 22, 2019

A Latina Nevadan with incurable blood cancer, Hanna Olivas, has recorded bilingual videos for Compassion & Choices to urge state lawmakers in Nevada and other states nationwide to pass laws that would allow terminally ill adults to have the option of medical aid in dying to peacefully end intolerable suffering.

The videos are being released during National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), an initiative to encourage patients to express their wishes regarding healthcare and for providers and facilities to respect those wishes, whatever they may be. To view video, in English click on this link and in Spanish click here:

Hanna and Jerry Olivas

Hanna and Jerry Olivas

Hanna, a 44-year-old make-up artist and mother of four children, was diagnosed with rare form of incurable blood cancer, multiple myeloma, in August 2017. This incurable illness causes severe bone pain, fractures following minor trauma, anemia, weakness, frequent infections, kidney failure and tumor growth.  

“I was diagnosed in 2017 with a cancer called multiple myeloma,” Hanna says in the video. “It’s a blood cancer. … I was told I would have approximately five years.”

Hanna said she stopped treatment after only five rounds of chemotherapy because of the damage it caused her kidneys and liver. 

“We as patients fight every single day a battle that people that don’t have cancer could never understand,” she says in the video. “And they might not agree with it [medical aid-in-dying], but at least give us the option to do it if that’s what we choose.”

Legislators in Nevada and 10 other states are considering bills that would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or fewer to live the option to request and receive a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take to die peacefully if their suffering becomes unbearable. The other states considering medical aid-in-dying legislation include: Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, and Utah.

Just last week, Hanna and her husband, Jerry, traveled to Nevada’s state capitol to join civil rights icon Dolores Huerta to urge passage of the state’s Death with Dignity bill (SB 165).    

“If this bill passes and we were given the right to have an option for medical aid in dying, I don’t believe that that’s giving up,” Hanna says in the video. “We as patients fight every single day a battle that people that don’t have cancer could never understand…And they might not agree with it, but at least give us the option to do it if that’s what we choose.”

Seventy-two percent of Nevada residents support medical aid in dying legislation. Support for the bill is bipartisan and diverse: Hispanic voters (63 percent); Catholics (76 percent); Protestants (65 percent) and voters of all ages and education levels all in favor of expanding the rights of the terminally ill.  Polling shows 69 percent of Latinos Hispanics nationwide support medical aid in dying.

“We hope Hanna’s impassioned plea will help convince legislators who are hesitant to pass this compassionate legislation,” said Elizabeth Armijo, Nevada campaign manager for Compassion & Choices. “The Death with Dignity Act is simply an option that allows a person who is already going to die the option to die without unnecessary and unbearable pain. Dying Nevadans should not be forced to suffer at the end of their lives.”

Hanna, a devout Christian, also hopes doctors and fellow Latinos abandon the cultural taboo of avoiding talking about death and support the option of medical aid in dying when there is no cure or treatment from a terminal illness.

I have discussed with my doctor about medical aid in dying… he was willing to be supportive,” she says. “I am a Christian,” she said. “We have a loving God… .. a God of compassion …as his child, he does not want me to suffer..”

Hanna’s husband, Jerry Olivas, said he cannot imagine losing his wife of six years that he met as a teenager. But the thought of seeing her die slowly in unbearable pain is something he can not tolerate.

I would support … my wife,” Jerry says in the video. “ And it’s something I would support for others if they want that option.”  

Hanna’s videos are part of the ‘End of Life Options for ALL’ multi-state bilingual education campaign, led by Civil activist Dolores Huerta, in which she urged fellow Hispanics to join her in calling for passage of medical aid-in-dying legislation. She recently recorded videos in English and Spanish, targeting Nevada, New Jersey, New York and New Mexico.

Currently, eight jurisdictions have medical aid in dying laws: Oregon, California, Colorado, Montana, Vermont, the District of Columbia, and Hawai‘i. In addition, on April 12 New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law his state’s recently passed medical aid-in-dying legislation. It will make New Jersey the ninth U.S. jurisdiction to allow terminally ill adults to have the option of medical aid in dying. Just last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in an interview with Albany radio station WAMC that the state legislature should pass medical aid-in-dying legislation.

Once the New Jersey law takes effect in August, more than one-fifth of the nation’s population (21%) will have access to this end-of-life care option. Hispanics nationwide overwhelmingly support state laws allowing the option of medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults.

Compassion & Choices
Media Contacts

Sean Crowley
Media Relations Director
[email protected]

Patricia A. González-Portillo
National Latino Media Director
[email protected]
(323) 819 0310

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VICTORY: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed the improved End-of-Life Options Act.