World Series of Poker Player Uses Calif. Medical Aid-in-Dying Law to End His Suffering from Rare Cancer
NY Native/Longtime NJ Resident Kevin Roster Dedicated His Last Weeks to Educating Public about Sarcoma and Peaceful Dying Option
Kevin “Racks” Roster, Jr., a terminally ill, 36-year-old native New Yorker, who moved from his longtime home in New Jersey to California, so he could access its medical aid-in-dying law to peacefully end his suffering from sarcoma, died on Friday, July 26. He died peacefully in his sleep shortly after taking the aid-in-dying medication, surrounded by his wife, caretaker and best friend, at his apartment in Rancho Cordova.
Sarcoma often is misdiagnosed until it is too late to cure and nearly 6,000 people die each year from sarcoma, according to the Sarcoma Foundation of America. After his diagnosis, Kevin dedicated much of his remaining life to raising awareness about sarcoma and medical aid in dying via a blog, Twitter account, YouTube videos and playing semi-professional poker wearing sarcoma education gear.
Last month, Kevin partnered with Compassion & Choices to urge lawmakers in his native state of New York and nationwide to authorize medical aid in dying as an option for mentally capable, terminally ill adults to peacefully end intolerable suffering. Kevin originally planned to use the new New Jersey medical aid-in-dying law that takes effect on Aug. 1, but his doctors told him in May that he probably wouldn’t live long enough to use it.
Kevin’s story generated news coverage by California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and national media outlets, reaching millions of people, including ESPN’s World Series of Poker, ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Poker Life Podcast, Pokernews.com, Pokercentral.com, Joey Ingram’s Poker Life podcast, Datpoker podcast hosted by six-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Daniel Negreanu and Adam Schwarz, USA Today, USA Today oped, Sacramento ABC-10TV affiliate, Sacramento Bee, and Philadelphia NPR affiliate WHYY.
Thanks to this publicity, 2012 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Champion Greg Merson put up the $10,000 entry fee, so Kevin could fulfill his last wish by playing in the WSOP Main Event in early July, while wearing sarcoma education gear. Unfortunately, he “busted the tournament” (ran out of poker chips) in the final level of day 2. However, after returning home to Rancho Cordova because of rapidly declining health, he still managed to win the 2nd largest cash game pot in the history of the StonesLivePoker stream/stones gambling hall in Sacramento, more than $12,700.
“I have chosen to peacefully end my fight with sarcoma from a position of strength via the use of medical aid in dying,” Kevin said in a statement he posted Thursday night with a YouTube video directed to his poker community (statement and video are posted at: https://mysarcomacancerstory.com/140-2/ and video also is posted on YouTube at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Fmxppw441g). “At this point, the disease is holding me hostage, and I am taking back control, as I have tried to at every crucial step of my journey. I currently suffer from an almost constant need to be on oxygen, fatigue which keeps me in bed 13-14 hours a day, coughing fits, delirium, tumor pain in my back lungs and groin requiring morphine liquid, and about 40 pills daily, shortness of breath and difficulty eating amongst many, many others.”
“The most special thanks are reserved for my wife and best friend, Jennifer, and my son, Lucas, for their support and understanding and also for my caregiver, who wishes to remain anonymous. Without them and their support, none of this would have ever been possible,” Kevin concluded. “I do ask that any media outlets understand our need for privacy at this time. My family will not accommodate any requests for interviews or comments at this time.”
California is one of nine states — including Colorado, Hawai‘i, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington— as well as the District of Columbia, that have authorized medical aid in dying. Collectively, these 10 jurisdictions represent more than one out of five U.S. residents (22%) and have 40 years of combined experience using this end-of-life care option.
“Kevin died much too young, but he made the most of the last weeks of his life by educating millions of young sports fans about the deadly health threat of sarcoma and the end-of-life care option of medical aid in dying that many of them probably were unfamiliar with,” said Kim Callinan, CEO of Compassion & Choices. “We are eternally grateful to Kevin for his work to advance medical aid-in-dying legislation in New York and other states, which allow terminally ill adults to peacefully end their suffering if it becomes intolerable.”
Kevin Roster was born on March 9, 1983 in Queens, New York and raised there. He is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and their 10-year-old son, Lucas, who live in Staten Island, New York.