I show up to make it harder for them to pass me over when I tell my story.
By Leslie Mutchler
March 29, 2021
My dad Bob was terminally ill with chronic lymphocytic leukemia when he became the lead plaintiff in the 2009 Baxter ruling, which authorized aid in dying in Montana. He wanted to decide when he had endured enough suffering and wanted the option to die peacefully at home. He continued the effort, even when he realized the decision would not come in time for him. In fact, he died the very day the judge ruled in his favor and was not conscious when the phone call came to notify us of the court’s decision.
My father never would have dreamed that his own grandson would benefit from the decision in his lawsuit seven years later. My son TJ Mutchler was diagnosed with terminal metastatic pancreatic cancer in 2016 at the age of 36 after being critically ill for two years. TJ gained so much peace of mind when he received his aid-in-dying medication. Though he was in an immense amount of pain and discomfort, having the medication readily available was a relief to him.
He received the medication in November and did not take it until February 19, 2017. During those last two months, we celebrated his life with him. We threw what we called “TJ’s going away party” and invited friends and family to express their love to TJ while he was still here. He was in control until the end, knowing that when things got bad enough, he could take the medication.
For me, the future of the end-of-life options movement involves transforming medical aid in dying into a healthcare decision, not a legal battle. I want planning for death to become a mainstream discussion and consideration for everyone, no matter their age.
Compassion & Choices shares that same vision. They’re raising funds to pave the way for states to authorize medical aid in dying across the country. Please donate to the Compassionate Care Fund to help us see this fight through in all 50 states.
I’ll be honest: I wasn’t sure if I had another legislative fight in me this year. The past year has been so stressful, especially as a nurse practitioner during the COVID-19 response. I share my story—inseparable from those of my father and son—very often. But testifying during a hearing always brings up a lot of emotions in me and I’m not a fan of public speaking. It isn’t easy or natural for me. I steel myself to get up there every time.
So I hesitated at first to show up again this year when the latest bill to criminalize medical aid in dying came up, as has happened every legislative session since the law passed in 2009. But I couldn’t shake the thought that if the bill passed, perhaps I could have done or said something to stop it. I wanted to look them in the eye when I told them my story so that they could not pass over me. As long as they keep bringing legislation against what my family calls “the dad bill,” I’m prepared to fight.
If I can ask something of you, Sarah, it’s this: If you believe that medical aid in dying should be an accessible end-of-life option, please advocate for it. Become part of the shift in our culture to discuss dying. And if you can take one more step to help, please make a small gift to Compassion & Choices today.