The following testimony was shared with the Delaware House Health and Human Development Committee on May 31, 2017. Heather Block died of cancer on March 3, 2018.
Dear Committee Members: Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony on behalf of HB 160. I would like to be there in person but I am getting chemotherapy today. As a patient with metastatic breast cancer, I’d like to share my experience that has led to my support for the bill. Some of you may know that there is no cure for metastatic, stage 4 breast cancer. 50% of us die within 2 years, 80% die within 5 years. It’s a painful ugly death. I have bone marrow involvement and will never qualify for any clinical trials. Therefore, I will remain in chemo for as long as I live. When my doctor runs out of chemo drugs, or my body shuts down, I will die.
I live on morphine now, and we work to manage the pain. Pain management and palliative care are part of most stage 4 cancer patients’ regimens. This is not an alternative to end of life options. An end of life options law means that I can stop worrying about a slow, painful death. It gives me the freedom to stop fearing who will care for me and how long will I linger. When I have no options left, I can make a written request to my oncologist (attending physician). He has treated me for many years and knows my case inside and out. Shouldn’t he and I be the ones to decide when I have no options and will only have further debilitation and pain? I am confused by those that oppose aid in dying.
The bill is drafted so that no one can request my death be hastened except me. I have a documented diagnosis and long history of treatment. The prescription must be self-administered. I have experienced what I call a “good death” with a family member. My father had ALS and he was so fearful of the disease as it progressed. He ended his life with a simple prescription from a doctor. My brother and I were there with him and he died peacefully. I, too, want the freedom from worry that I will not have to suffer. Please allow me an end of life option and the peace of mind from knowing I have an option to die as peacefully as my father.