Matthew Alsante is Executive Director of the National Pancreas Foundation in Bethesda, Maryland.

Fourteen years ago my father died after a four-month battle with lung cancer. He was only 56. After he got diagnosed he tried everything possible, exactly the way he tackled every challenge in his life. We discussed his end-of-life wishes as a family and with his physician. For the last two months of his life, he was bedridden and his quality of life non existent. No medication could help his anxiety, soothe his mind, or relieve his pain. Near the end, morphine was his only escape.

The night Dad died, my Mom was with him in their upstairs bedroom. Somehow knowing he was going to die, he called for me to say good bye. Then he fell unconscious and while choking on his own fluid, he died.

Matthew Alsante with his father

I think he’d have wanted to have more control about how he went. The ultimate choice should be up to the patient. This is what draws me to the Death with Dignity movement: the option of having control over your own body and over how you leave this planet.

As Executive Director of the National Pancreas Foundation, I see people struggling everyday with a horrific disease. The liberty to live your life on your own terms is a right that every individual should have. It should be a choice made between loved ones and what their wishes are. That is what my father would have wanted and what I fight for today.