The reality is that, as with many of my fellow boomers, I am most likely to end up with cancer or heart disease or dementia. At best, I’ll live a few months after diagnosis. At worst, I’ll stick around for years, increasingly unable to care for myself. Whatever the future holds, I want the option that legal aid in dying guarantees: to die on my own terms.
I first testified about this issue in the late 1990s, as a way to cope with my distress at my grandmother’s death. I wrote for many years for various groups devoted to bettering end-of-life care, and I’ve written books that described for other families what to expect at the end and how to help.
Having been at this for 22 years now, I am weary of the old arguments: the slippery slope, euthanasia, etc. In states where such measures have been enacted (most recently, California), the laws include strict measures to ensure that the patients in question are, in fact, dying of a terminal illness, that they are not “just” depressed and suicidal, and that they are not being coerced. In Oregon, the first state to legalize aid in dying, many more people request the prescription than take the lethal dose. For some, it appears, having the option gives them comfort and the ability to endure.