Throughout our lives, we freely make choices and decisions. Some are critical, others are mundane. But, amongst the most important decisions we must consider are those that revolve around healthcare and how we personally define wellbeing. To support and honor the importance of thoughtfully planning for health emergencies or natural decline as we get older, National Healthcare Decisions Day (April 15) empowers us to start conversations and build awareness around advanced planning, especially for the end of life.
One critical choice far too few Americans currently have is the right to decide how they die. Ann Keller and Laura Johannes were both remarkable women who had the same terminal diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. What separated their experience in planning for their inevitable death was choice and the ability to maintain bodily autonomy in the final days of life.
The stark reality of Ann and Laura’s final days are evident. Ann had the ability to make the informed decision to end her life using Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, while Laura did not. The option to use medical aid in dying should be available to all patients with terminal illness. And, both of these brave women shared their powerful stories with us just days before they died – to advocate for passage and expansion of Death with Dignity laws.
Death with Dignity’s mission revolves around providing patients with terminal illness choices at the end of life. And on National Healthcare Decisions Day, Ann so poignantly says it best: “Death with Dignity means that I have a say and what I want for me is important… It just means that it should be my choice.”