PEOPLE Profiles Latina Mother with Incurable Cancer

Hanna Olivas Plans to Move from Nevada to California to Access Medical Aid-in-Dying Law Not Available in Her Home State
October 10, 2019

Jerry and Hanna Olivas.

A national exclusive news story on Hanna Olivas, a Latina mother of four children with incurable blood cancer who wants the option of medical aid in dying if her end-of-life suffering becomes unbearable, appears in the October 21, 2019 issue of PEOPLE, which hits newsstands nationwide on Friday, October 11.  Digital coverage previewing the magazine article includes two stories about Ms. Olivas that are now posted on PEOPLE.com, along with a video of Ms. Olivas and her family. 

Hanna and her husband Jerry will soon leave their Las Vegas home, two of their four adult children and their grandchildren, to move to southern California, so she can have access to California’s medical aid-in-dying law because Nevada does not have a similar law. The California law allows mentally capable, terminally ill adults to have the option of medical aid in dying. It enables them to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take if their suffering becomes intolerable and die peacefully in their sleep. 

“We, as patients, fight every single day a battle that people that don’t have cancer could never understand. 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,” Hanna says in a video produced by Compassion & Choices posted on people.com/human-interest/las-vegas-mom-of-four-right-to-die-cancer/. “I am a Christian. We have a loving God, a God of compassion. As his child, he does not want me to suffer.”

In conjunction will her PEOPLE exclusive story, Hanna and her husband Jerry will be in New York City today through Sunday making multiple media appearances: as guests on the ABC network nationally syndicated “Tamron Hall Show” on Thursday morning, a live interview on HLN’s “On The Story” on Thursday at 12:30pm ET, and an interview with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos on Thursday night. Ms. Olivas also is visiting New York City to fulfill some items on her bucket list. They include: feeding the homeless in New York City, riding the New York City Subway, visiting Madison Square Garden, walking in Central Park and eating a cheeseburger at the iconic Manhattan restaurant P.J. Clarke’s. 

Last April, Hanna and Jerry traveled to Nevada’s state capitol to join civil rights icon Dolores Huerta in meetings with legislators, including with Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, to urge them to enact the state’s Death with Dignity Act that would authorize medical aid in dying. She also recorded a video in English and Spanish (bit.ly/HannaOlivasSpanishVideo) to urge lawmakers in Nevada and other states nationwide to pass medical aid-in-dying laws, but the Nevada bill did not advance during this year’s legislative session.

Hanna, a 45-year-old make-up artist and mother of four children, was diagnosed with a rare form of incurable blood cancer, multiple myeloma, in August 2017. Doctors initially gave Hanna about five years to live in 2017, if she continued chemotherapy treatments. But she stopped chemotherapy in May 2018 after only five rounds of treatments because they damaged her kidneys and liver. Recently, doctors told Hanna she has only months or up to one year to live. 

“We are heartbroken that Hanna has to leave her home, her children and grandchildren behind in Las Vegas because her home state of Nevada does not offer her this compassionate end-of-life care option,” said Compassion & Choices Chief Executive Officer Kim Callinan, “A move to California robs Hanna of precious time with her loved ones and is very demanding on her health which continues to deteriorate as the days go by. No one should be forced to leave their home and loved ones to achieve a peaceful death.”

Polling shows 72 percent of Nevada residents support medical aid-in-dying legislation and 69 percent of Hispanics nationwide support this end-of-life option.

Currently, medical aid in dying is authorized in Washington. D.C. and nine states: California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Maine, Montana (via state Supreme Court ruling), New Jersey,  Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Collectively, these 10 jurisdictions represent more than one-fifth of the nation’s population (22%).

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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