Vickie George

Vickie George is the co-founder, president and CEO of Yes U Can USA, a nonprofit founded to increase inclusion and access to recreation and physical fitness opportunities for people with limited mobility and disabilities. A quadriplegic herself, Vickie is an advocate for autonomy in healthcare decisions throughout the lifespan, including at the end of life.
Vickie George with a fishing pole and a recently caught Fish

“I want to maintain autonomy over my personal healthcare decisions at the end of my life, just as I have throughout my life.”

Vickie shared her story in September of 2020.

It’s simple. I want to maintain autonomy over my personal healthcare decisions at the end of my life, just as I have throughout my life. Our freedom to decide what is best for ourselves is of the utmost importance, especially at the most critical time — the end of life.

As someone who has advocated for the option of medical aid in dying, I have heard people from the disability community amplify a message of distrust for this end-of-life option. They seem consumed by the idea that it will somehow be used against their will. They do not speak for me.

As someone from the disability community, I feel it is important to share my own thoughts around how I wish to direct my care at the end of my life. You can’t take one person from the disability community and say that they represent the voices of everyone within the community. It doesn’t work that way. Everyone, whether they have a disability or not, can have a differing opinion. That’s the whole point — to make your own decision. I would never want to deny someone else their choice. I just don’t want to be denied mine.

It is arrogant and insensitive to restrict my options while people in Oregon, California, New Jersey and other states are trusted to make their own end-of-life healthcare decisions. I was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis in 1995. I am a quadriplegic. I have designed my life and have been in control throughout my life. I certainly don’t want that to get away from me at the very end.

My sister, Cindy George, died a horrific death from cancer in 2015. Cindy was diagnosed with cancer once it had already metastasized. She endured surgery and miraculously lived another two and half years, but her last months were gruesomely painful.

Cindy was incredibly active and lived life fully. She was by no means a spectator of life. But her last months were full of suffering as she lost her ability to engage in life with joy and energy, and without pain. She desperately wanted the pain to end, stating to family, “I just want to die. The pain is so great I don’t want to wake up. I just want to die.” She needed her suffering to end. The option of medical aid in dying could have provided her and us, as a family, some peace and comfort. But she did not have that option.

I don’t want to suffer a prolonged death, full of unnecessary pain and mental anguish. Although I am not terminally ill, if I ever become terminally ill I want the option to decide what is right for me. I fiercely value and protect my independence, and cannot imagine not being able to make my own decisions. I want legislators in Delaware to respect state residents by trusting them to decide, based on their own values and circumstances, their end-of-life care journey. For those who don’t support the option, they would continue with the same right to decline it. But for those who are suffering and near life’s end, it can provide the peace and control my sister sadly lacked.

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VICTORY: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed the improved End-of-Life Options Act.