Barbara Hammer (1939-2019) was a terminally-ill advocate in New York who worked to authorize medical aid in dying
Barbara Hammer, who did multiple local interviews in her last month urging the New York Legislature to pass the Medical Aid in Dying Act because she was too ill to attend the Albany news conference to introduce the bill, died on Saturday, March 16, 2019. She was 79.
The following is an excerpt from an op-ed published in the New York Daily News on February 18, 2019
Endometrioid ovarian cancer. That was the diagnosis I received in 2006. It forever changed my world — as it does with anyone who hears the words “you have cancer” from their doctor. I’ve lived with this insidious disease as best as I can for the last 12 years. I’ve had surgeries, radiation, immunotherapy and more than 100 chemo treatments. I’ve spent far too much time in doctors’ offices, labs and hospitals.
For several years, the cancer was stable. I was able to throw myself back into my work — I’ve now made more than 100 films — without thinking every day about the next oncology appointment. But three years ago, the cancer returned with a jolt. I was able to negotiate the bad and the good days that come as one lives with cancer. I continued to seek treatment. I cannot thank the countless doctors, nurses, technicians and aides enough for the care and support they’ve provided.
But even for an optimist with a great team of doctors, there is a time when continued treatment on a near-octogenarian body takes too much of a toll with no benefit. I am still living at home here in New York City, but I am in palliative care.
I am committed to my life as far as it will take me. My zest for living the best life possible has never wavered, and it won’t in whatever time I have left.But I know I will be dying of cancer. And I know it will be soon. What I don’t know, however, is what the final days and weeks will bring. Medication prescribed by my care team eases my pain, but I do not want to spend my last days on this planet in a morphine-infused coma.
I would be so grateful to be able to manage my own death by choosing the time and the person I’d like to have with me, so that I can die in comfort and with compassion.
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