PBS to Air Documentary on Medical Aid in Dying Hosted by Former NPR Show Host Diane Rehm
Terminally Ill advocates in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., Compassion & Choices CEO, and President Emeritus Featured in Documentary
PBS stations nationwide will air a documentary starting tonight about medical aid in dying hosted by former syndicated NPR show host Diane Rehm. The documentary, “When My Time Comes,” features interviews with Compassion & Choices senior leaders, doctors, and terminally ill adults in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. To find out what day(s) and time(s) “When My Times Comes” will air in local markets, visit whenmytimecomesmovie.com/see-the-film.
The airing of “When My Time Comes” is timely because New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is scheduled to sign medical aid-in-dying legislation today, making it the 11th jurisdiction in the nation to authorize this end-of-life care option for terminally ill adults to gently end unbearable suffering.
Spurred on by the agonizing death of her husband John from Parkinson’s disease, Rehm, a Peabody-award-winning journalist, speaks to people on all sides of the issue, uncovering the facts and the misinformation about this medical practice. Rehm co-produced the documentary with Joe Fab and Diane Naughton.
“My darling John died in 2014 and that experience made this issue very personal,” says Rehm in the documentary. “The doctor at the nursing home had said he was within six months of dying. And John turned to the doctor and said, I am ready to die and I want you to help me. And the doctor said, here in the state of Maryland, I have not the legal authority, the moral authority or any other authority by which to help you die … And John, for the first time in a long time, became enraged.”
In 2019, Rehm testified in support of legislation to authorize medical aid in dying in Maryland, sitting side-by-side with Compassion & Choices President and CEO Kim Callinan.
“Millions of Americans know and trust Diane Rehm because they have listened to her for decades on public radio,” said Callinan. “Her credibility, interviewing skills, and the needless end-of-life suffering she details in this documentary should help open the hearts and minds of lawmakers about the importance of making this peaceful dying option available in every state.”
Ten states currently are considering medical aid-in-dying bills: Connecticut (HB6425), Indiana (HB1074), Kansas (HB2202), Kentucky (HB506), Massachusetts (HD1456/SD801), New York (A04321), Rhode Island (H5572), Minnesota (SF1352/HF1358), Nevada (AB351), and Pennsylvania (SB405).
“Twenty-five percent of people who die with chronic illness, die with uncontrolled pain,” says Dr. Roger Kligler, a retired family physician in Falmouth, Massachusetts with stage IV metastatic prostate cancer who advocates for the state to pass a medical aid-in-dying law. “I always would tell my patients that just because you’ve got a terminal condition doesn’t mean that you’re dead yet. That you should go on, you should continue living your life, you should seek the beauty that’s in it and the enjoyment that you can.”
Four states are considering legislation to improve access to current medical aid-in-dying laws: California (SB380), Hawai‘i (SB839/HB487/HB323); Vermont (S74), and Washington (HB1141).
“I have had cancer for a little over seven years…there is no cure. I’m going to die of breast cancer, right?” says Lori Wallace-Pushinaitis, a mother in San Jose, California with terminal cancer who experienced great emotional relief once she obtained a prescription for medical aid in dying, but died suddenly in October 2018 before her planned date to take the medication. “So the minute I found out that there was legislation that was being considered that we would vote on, I started telling my oncologist immediately, okay, in today’s notes, I want you to put that I want this option.”
“We met specifically around the issue of her interest in the option,” says Lori’s family physician, Dr. Catherine Sonquist Forest, who now is a Clinical Associate Professor at the UCSF Natividad Family Medicine Residency in Salinas, California. “We met specifically around the issue [of medical aid in dying] …just the reassurance that if it were there that it would be comforting to her.”
“These conversations are not actually about dying,” says Compassion & Choices President Emeritus Barbara Coombs Lee. “They’re about the quality of our lives.”
“It’s been such a taboo subject for many of us for too long,” says Rehm near the end of the documentary. “But if we can discuss what we want with our friends, our doctors, our families, if we can make our own wishes known to those who care about us, everyone will be more prepared, and the end of life will be less stressful and could be more joyous for us all.”
You can watch a few minutes of the documentary highlights at whenmytimecomesmovie.com.