Miguel Carrasquillo

Miguel Carrasquillo (1980 - 2016), a Chicago-based chef from Puerto Rico, died at age 35 from an aggressive form of brain cancer on June 5, 2016.

"I wanted to die the way I lived: with purpose and intention."

Miguel Carrasquillo wrote this piece a few days before his death and asked that it be shared with lawmakers from across the nation in the hope that his story could help give others the option for a peaceful death he wanted for himself.

By the time you read this piece, I will be dead.

But unlike Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer who inspired the passage of California’s End of Life Option Act, I am unlikely to die peacefully from my brain tumor as she did after moving with her family to Oregon to utilize its death-with-dignity law.

I did not live in a U.S. state or territory that gives terminally ill adults the option to get a prescription for aid-in-dying medication I could decide to take to die peacefully, as Brittany did, to end unbearable suffering.

As a result, I lived my last days with every horror that Brittany feared most: mind-splitting headaches, blackouts, blindness, convulsions and electric shocks from the incurable brain tumor that spread to my liver, stomach, testicles and other vital organs.

I didn’t want the tumor to dictate how I would die. I wanted to die the way I lived: with purpose and intention. I wanted to die gently and avoid the terrifyingly painful death that doctors said I would experience.

Unfortunately, medical aid in dying is not authorized in my native Puerto Rico, where my Catholic parents cared for me during the last days of my life.

For more than a year, I watched Brittany Maynard’s videos. I researched moving to one of the states that authorize medical aid in dying: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont — or California, where the End of Life Option law took effect on June 9.

But my family didn’t have the resources to move 2,000 miles or more to one of these five states. As a result, I had to live and die with this horrible pain.

It is clear we have an issue in our country, where it is not affordable or practical for the vast majority of terminally ill people to move to another state, establish residency and find a medical team in order to die peacefully.

We shouldn’t have to die in unbearable pain and suffering.

So we must take action. We must email our legislators and our doctors to urge them to support broader end-of-life options.

And we Latinos must drop our cultural taboo about discussing death and the option of medical aid in dying.

I had numerous conversations with God throughout my life, especially during my illness. I could not understand why people judged me a sinner for wanting to die peacefully rather than enduring severe seizures and excruciating pain until the end of my life.

As a Catholic, I was taught it is wrong for anyone to judge someone else.

I was proud to learn I was Compassion & Choices’ first terminally ill Latino advocate for medical aid in dying when I recorded videos in English and in Spanish. Some media outlets referred to me as the “Latino Brittany Maynard.”

I am no longer alive to tell my story.

But my mama will not go silent. She will continue to be a loud, powerful voice so other terminally ill Latinos don’t have to suffer as I did. We need to keep fighting and fighting until somebody listens to us.

Click here to read a Spanish-language version of this piece.

An edited version of this op-ed was originally published in El Diario.

News About Miguel

Miguel’s story was covered in publications across the country and especially in Spanish language media. Below are some of the highlights.

A Chicago man’s wish: ‘I pray to God that He takes me soon’

Cancer Is My Prison, and Intolerable Suffering Is My Sentence

El último deseo de Miguel Carrasquillo: “Para cuando usted lea este escrito, estaré muerto”

One Year Without My Son, Miguel

Seis años sin mi hijo Miguel

Miguel’s Videos

Miguel’s videos were viewed widely among the nation’s lawmakers and the Latino community. His impact was immense and these heart-wrenching videos are reminder why.

Miguel’s Plea

Miguel’s Plea (Spanish)

One Year Later (English)

Nothing advances our common cause of improving end-of-life care like real stories. Inspire others and drive change by sharing your story today.

Tell Your Story

The power of personal stories is undeniable. Inspire others and drive change by sharing your story today. Join our network of storytellers to help educate and empower those seeking the best possible healthcare.

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