Most people join our movement because of a heartbreaking personal experience. Such stories, which we receive every day, inspire us to work toward ensuring terminally-ill Americans have the freedom to decide how they die. This week, we published two new stories.
Christopher Stookey: A Gentle Way to Die
Christopher Stookey, MD, is an emergency physician in Laguna Beach, California. His story about the experience with his father dying after voluntarily stopping eating and drinking is adapted from his memoir, Do Go Gentle: Bringing My Father Home to Die With Dignity After a Devastating Stroke.
On a September night not long after his 83rd birthday, my father suffered a massive stroke. It left him conscious yet unable to talk and communicate, unable to swallow, and almost completely paralyzed.
After numerous scans and other tests, his doctors determined that there was no chance for recovery. My father would never walk, talk, or swallow food again. With nothing more to do for him in the hospital, we (my mother, my sister, and I) needed to decide what to do next. The social worker on the case encouraged us to put Dad in a nursing home. A gastric feeding tube could be put in, and he could be fed and kept alive that way. Indefinitely.
Deborah Flynn: Better Options
Deborah Flynn is an online business owner in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. She watched her terminally ill husband David fruitlessly fight to die in the same dignified manner in which he had lived.
Dave, my husband and soulmate of over 40 years, was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in November of 2012. Shortly after diagnosis, he underwent surgery for a life-saving procedure. He then had six weeks to heal before his first round of chemotherapy.
Over the next two years he endured five rounds of chemotherapy and two other surgical procedures. He had countless CT scans, pet scans, and consults at Dana Farber, Mass General and Yale New Haven. He was hospitalized for life-threatening infections. We sought trials and opinions from doctors at the National Institute of Health and the Cancer Institute. We discussed, planned, worked through, and were counseled on what to expect and how to “stay strong” through this terminal diagnosis.
Throughout it all, Dave worked at his weekday job and played in the local band Greylock. They played to thousands of fans at events such as Live on the Lake and at many other local venues. Most people who came to listen never knew he was sick.