First Terminally Ill Latino in U.S. to Publicly Announce His Plan to Use Medical Aid In Dying Dies Peacefully

April 1, 2024

Don José Alejandro Lemuz Died Sunday in his Sleep after Suffering from Terminal Cancer

Don José Alejandro Lemuz, a terminally ill Latino with terminal prostate cancer has died peacefully after using California’s medical aid-in-dying law at his home in Wilmington, CA. He was 60-years-old. 

Don José died Easter Sunday at 4:09 a.m. 

He was surrounded by loved ones when he took the medication as the song  “La Ultima Caravana”  [The Last Caravan] that he requested, played in the background. He is the first terminally ill Latino in the United States to publicly announce his plans to use medical aid in dying.

One by one, friends and neighbors walked into Don José’s small apartment in Wilmington, CA. Some had rosaries, others took holy water and lit candles as the rain poured outside Don José’s dim bedroom and Christian music played in the background.

Don José Alejandro Lemuz resting on a pillow

Don José Alejandro Lemuz

“I am so grateful for this law that gives me the opportunity to go in peace,” he said. “As much as I want to live to see my children grow up, I am dying and I can no longer bear this suffering.”

Despite the gravity of his illness, Don José partnered with Compassion & Choices to record a video three weeks ago in Spanish to help Latinos understand that doctors should consult their patients about all their options, instead of trying to convince them to continue to endure painful treatments when physicians know there is no longer a cure. 

The native Honduran used his last days to meet with two journalists from major Spanish language networks to ensure his message was heard by fellow Latinos throughout the United States, Islands and territories. He also authored an editorial published in Los Angeles Daily News: My Advice for Terminally Ill Latinos Like Me:  You Have Options.

“Doctors kept pushing more chemotherapy and radiation on me,” Don José told family and neighbors who visited him for the last time.  “Until I said: no more.”

Don José said he had to learn about this law through YouTube videos of a young terminally ill advocate for medical aid in dying from Puerto Rico, the late Miguel Carrasquillo, and TV news stories, instead of through his own doctors.

“Don José was a true champion who fought for his options until the last day of his life,” said Angela Schultz, States Advocacy Manager for Compassion & Choices. “He died just the way he wanted, despite suggestions from his doctors that he could keep seeking treatment that would only prolong his suffering.”

Don José endured numerous rounds of chemotherapy and radiation since he was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in 2018. The cancer eventually spread to his bones and in mid-March 2024, Don José was enrolled in hospice. Don José had stopped all medical treatment in December 2023.

“I love you very very much and I will never stop loving you,” Don José told his children ages 14 and 17. “Don’t ever forget that.”

The legal option of medical aid in dying is available in California, nine other states, and Washington, D.C. The law allows mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to take medication prescribed by a doctor that will allow them to die gently.

Less than three percent of the Californians who used the law in 2022 were Latinos, even though Latinos represent 40% of the state’s population, and polling shows 68% of Hispanic Californians support medical aid in dying

Don José is survived by his children Alejandro and Kelly Lemuz and Sonia Vanegas, his devoted caretaker and the mother of his children.


About Compassion & Choices

Compassion & Choices is the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization working to improve care, expand options, and empower everyone to chart their end-of-life journey, with 450,000 supporters nationwide. 

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Contact: Patricia A. González-Portillo, (323) 819-0310, [email protected]  

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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