Storyteller Spotlight: Anthony Randolph

A native New Yorker, Anthony Randolph opposed medical aid in dying until his brother’s agonizing death compelled him to reconsider.
June 27, 2019

“When I first heard about death with dignity,” explains Anthony Randolph of the Bronx, New York, “I was like: Hell no! Only God can make that decision; it’s not for us.” But then Anthony’s brother James was diagnosed with lung cancer. “The experience of watching him die changed my mind.”

James received palliative care and hospice care, but he still suffered enormously. Says Anthony, “I feel like he pretty much died two weeks before his body gave out. I watched him struggle to breathe, and he was suffering. You could tell every breath was a fight.” 

Although James received excellent care, the ordeal was still devastating. “James was a Marine; he remained strong and had a lot of dignity. However, what James experienced was not a dignified death,” Anthony says. “He was able to press a button to deliver pain medication, but at some point, it got so bad that he couldn’t even do that. I remember holding his hand and thinking that it doesn’t have to be this rough.”

“I understand why people oppose medical aid in dying,” Anthony says, “I was one of them. But I ask you to spend 24 hours with someone who is dying and suffering. There’s no way you’re going to see all that and not support the option of medical aid in dying. Every terminally ill person deserves to have the option — the decision is between you and your God.”

Recalls Anthony, “My brother suffered needlessly, and the whole family, including James’ children, watched. We suffered by watching. I still think about it. I still think about watching him take his last breaths. There has to be a better way.”

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