Storyteller Spotlight: Debbie Stern
“Even if it’s too late to help me if it doesn’t pass in time, it will be helpful to other people,” says advocate Debbie Stern of supporting her home state of New York’s medical aid-in-dying bill.
by Sonja Aliesch
January 24, 2020
Debbie Stern, a retired psychiatric social worker, has had end-of-life issues on her mind since caring for her father after his lung cancer diagnosis. “We were very close, and it was a horrible death,” she recalls. “He ended up going down to 75 pounds from being a big man, and he was totally delusional at the end. It was awful, very traumatic.” Debbie, who began feeling ill 11 years ago, was diagnosed with a rare and severe form of leukemia in 2016. She endures weekly chemotherapy. “It’s been rough, but I’m doing the best I can,” she says.
Then something Debbie misheard about her home state of New York’s medical aid-in-dying bill spurred her to become involved in the movement. “I was falling asleep one night while Governor Cuomo was giving an interview on TV, and I thought he said that he was signing the bill,” she explains. “Apparently he didn’t say that — he said he would if it came to him. But I fell asleep with such a peaceful feeling that maybe it doesn’t have to be so horrible at the end. The next morning I reached out to Compassion & Choices.”
Debbie has since joined our storyteller program, sharing her experience publicly to help lawmakers and others in her state understand the importance and benevolence of passing an aid-in-dying law. “Even if it’s too late to help me if it doesn’t pass in time, it will be helpful to other people,” she says. “I’ve always tried to be a person who’s there for others, and I’d like to continue to do that as long as possible. This is one more way to do that.”