It’s been just over a year since a unique Redding individual implemented his decision for “Death with Dignity”. He was a deeply spiritual man. He did not fear death. But neither was this a decision taken lightly or based on clinical depression. It was a practical decision to choose his own destiny.
After four years of chasing a diagnosis for his odd symptoms, he was finally diagnosed in 2012 with Frontotemporal Degeneration - Behavioral Variant Type (bvFTD). He learned that it was a fatal disease for which there was no cure. It would progress with decline in 3 categories: Behavior/personality, language and motor skills. For this “Renaissance Man” (Attorney/child advocate, Harley Rider, Musician) there could be no more cruel diagnosis.
He knew that he wanted to cherish all that life had left for him. He also wanted to protect himself and his family from a gruesome death. He knew that in addition to possibly being totally incapacitated and without motor skills or his true personality, it was equally possible that he could harm a family member when in a disease-symptomatic rage. He and his devoted wife did everything they could to live with the disease. As the disease progressed, he would spend hours locked in his own pain in a fetal position, sobbing uncontrollably unable to function.
Life is most certainly a gift. A life well-lived is a profound gift to the recipient as well as those who are touched by that life. There are those that believe only their god has the right to choose when life ends. I do not argue that point. I only submit that perhaps this god has also given us the gift of free will to make choices. My goal today is simply to provide information about options.
When ABX2-15 was passed on 10/5/2015, it followed 25 years of efforts to make it legal to end your own life in California. Prior, most folks considered going to Oregon where there was a legal option.
According to the CA Death with Dignity website the new law allows “qualified individuals” to “legally request and obtain medications from their physician to end their life in a peaceful, humane, and dignified manner”.
- a resident of California 18 years of age or older;
- mentally competent,
- diagnosed with a terminal illness that will, within reasonable medical judgment, lead to death within six months
- able to self-administer and ingest the prescribed medication
These requirements must be met and verified by two physicians. There are no exceptions. There is a minimum 15 day waiting periods between the two required requests that the patient must make. More information for physicians can be found at: http://www.familydocs.org/eol/end-of-life-option-act.
This individual was a lawyer and careful to protect his family from any repercussions. He made sure to have the requisite documents in place and readily available. It was 9 years since the onset of symptoms that he completed his transition. He was confident that it was time.
Currently the documents needed are:
- DNR (Do Not Resuscitate order).
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
- Physician Compliance form: Patient request form
- Patient request form
- Final Attestation Form http://californiadeathwithdignity.org/implementation-forms/
- Advanced Directive
The medications were self-administered (following a tequila shot to calm himself). The needed materials had been locked in a safe and never touched by anyone else in the family. Like most stories I have heard, he was reported to have had a deep sense of peace as he made this transition.
The aftermath was not as peaceful. Since he was not under hospice care and the death was not physician attended, 911 was called. This resulted in a much more chaotic scene than his wife expected to experience. It is my understanding that much of this will be avoided when qualifying under the new law.
It’s interesting to note that in Oregon since 1998, 1545 patients received prescriptions, but only 991 (64.1%) actually ingested them and died. The three most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns were a decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (96.2%), loss of autonomy (92.4%), and loss of dignity (75.4%).
Discussing your decision with loved ones and family is critical to the success of this process. While we might feel it is really no one’s business but our own, it clearly impacts those closest to us. A further piece of advice from one survivor: “Be very careful who you choose to walk this path with you. It is a sacred experience and a sacred trust”. They must be 100% supportive or there can be painful and damaging results after all is finally complete. That is the last thing the survivors need as they work through their own personal grief.
Note: Covered CA has extended the application date for 2/1/2017 effective dates to 1/20/2017.