When I first heard about death with dignity, I was like: Hell no! Only God can make that decision, it’s not for us. But then, when my 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. 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.
We were lucky that James received excellent care, but it was all still devastating. James was a Marine, he remained strong and had a lot of dignity. However, what James experienced was not a dignified death. 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. 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.
God gives us the option of making the decision for ourselves for a reason. Every terminally ill person deserves to have the option — the decision is between you and your God.
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. That’s why I support New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act.