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New Death with Dignity Stories: Hensleigh Crowell, Sara Deskar, Kelly Willis

December 20, 2018

Many people come to the death with dignity movement because they have a personal connection to the issue. Most often, we hear from individuals who have lost a loved one to a terminal illness. Their personal stories inform their support of medical aid in dying and inspire us to continue working toward the day when all terminally ill Americans have the right to decide how they die.

Do you have a death with dignity story to tell? Please share it with us.

Hensleigh Crowell: A More Humane Death

Texan Hensleigh Crowell’s mother died earlier this year of pancreatic cancer. “The loss of my intellectual guide, the first poet in my life, has been devastating,” she told us. “I’m still figuring out how to live in a world devoid of her voice.”

Hensleigh shared her mother’s story both to honor her memory and to work toward a future where a full range of end-of-life options are available to all qualified terminally ill Americans.

“I hope that when it is my time to die, we will have become a more humane society, and all terminally ill individuals will have the right to die on their own terms,” she said. “It is what my mother wanted; it is what we all deserve.”

Hensleigh Crowell (second from left), her mother (center, wearing black), and her family

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Sara Deskar: Compassion, Autonomy, and the Right to Choose

Neither Ohio, where Sara Deskar’s father died after a seven-year illness, nor North Carolina, where Sara currently resides, have an assisted-dying law on the books. She wants that to change.

“Watching my dad leave this world slowly and painfully broke my heart—but also inspired me to ensure others don’t have to die that way,” said Sara. “I am proud to share his story as one way of ensuring those at the end of their lives do not have to suffer unnecessarily.”

Sara Deskar with her Father

Sara Deskar with her father

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Kelly Willis: A Choice, A Right, A Legacy

Before he was diagnosed with cancer, Kelly Willis’ father was, in her words, “a vibrant and energetic jack of all trades.” Once he learned he was terminally ill, he asked Kelly to convince his doctor to let him die.

After learning he qualified to access Washington’s Death with Dignity Act, Kelly told us, “there was no question in his mind that he wanted to [use the law.] Death with dignity gave my father peace of mind and provided immense comfort at the end. It meant everything to him to die on his own terms.”

Kelly Willis with her father.

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What’s Your Story?

We want to hear from you: Do you have a death with dignity story? What inspired you to get involved in the cause? What does death with dignity mean to you?

Get in touch and share your story with us.

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Afterword: Physician-Assisted Dying Concepts

New Death with Dignity Stories: Hensleigh Crowell, Sara Deskar, Kelly Willis