Barbara W. is a CPA in Boston, Massachusetts.

When I was five, my grandfather on my dad’s side died from colon cancer. I remember seeing him lying on the couch in pain, and my father saying, “I never want to go like that.” But after my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the age of 78, he ended up enduring the same horror because he was unable to choose death with dignity.

That was seven years ago. Five years ago, my mother was dying from a terminal illness. Fragile and frail, she too wanted to avoid the indignities of being unable to care for herself. She stopped eating to speed up her death but was unable refrain from drinking water to take the pills that prevented her from suffocating to death. Thanks to the wonderful people at hospice, she was able to die without too much suffering. But she lost her dignity long before she died.

Barbara W with her parents

These experiences have led me to feel very strongly that people who are terminally ill should be able to make the choice of how and when they will die.