Update: the California End of Life Options Act passed in 2016.
Christina Derwey is a retired postal worker in Crescent City, California.
In 1990 my stepfather was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer. My mother and I watched helplessly while this good man went from having the physique of a football player to mere 90 pounds. He died the most excruciating pain that even morphine couldn’t dull. Every day he pleaded for an end to his suffering. He died later that year.
In 1998, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. Doctors removed one of her lungs but she was terminal.
We were lucky: We lived in Oregon, and my mother became one of the first people to use the new Death with Dignity Act. She went through the counseling and once she was cleared by her doctor and psychologist, she was allowed to make her own decision as to how she would die.
On the day she was ready to say her goodbyes, she was in her own home surrounded by all her children. I stayed in her bedroom holding her hand and talking to her until she took her last breath. She died peacefully.
To this day, when I think of my stepfather, all I can see is a shell of man riddled with pain. I still cry for him after all these years. When I think of my mother, I see her smiling face slowly going into a restful sleep. I can smile with her, thinking of how happy and at peace she was when she died.
Death with Dignity laws allow a person who is dying to die peacefully and they ease the painful loss of a loved one for those left behind. I, too, want to have the choice, if i have a terminal illness and my time comes, to decide the end of my life. No one should be making that decision for me.
I thank God every day that Oregon was a pioneer in humanitarianism by passing the Death With Dignity Act.