Recently, Interfaith Impact of NY, a state wide coalition of congregations and individuals, whose mission is to work for the common good, held a panel discussion regarding Aid-in-Dying.
Panelists included: Corinne Carey, NY Director of Compassion & Choices, Timothy Quill, MD, Director of Palliative Care within the Department of Medicine at the University of Rochester at Strong Hospital, Diane Coleman, President & CEO of Not Dead Yet – a national disability rights group and James Hanson, President of Patients Rights Action Fund.
These are my personal comments on the panel discussion.
I have been a supporter of Aid-in-Dying since my diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, a terminal disease, in 2013. Although my disease comes with median lifespan of 33 months, no one knows for certain how long someone with this disease will live. It depends on how aggressive the cancer is and how one responds to treatment. I am very aware of what my disease can and will do to my organs and what that means regarding my death. None of that appeals to me. The pain. The struggling. The laying in bed waiting for death. No thank you. That was nothing I wanted for myself. Not to mention I was not going to leave my teenage son with that kind of memory of me.
Regardless of my strong stand on Aid-in-Dying, I did want to hear from the opposition and learn why some were against it. Maybe I had something to learn. Maybe they could learn something from me. Either way I wanted to hear what they had to say.
Diane Coleman’s position is that individuals with disabilities or chronic conditions would be coerced into choosing Aid-in-Dying by their caregivers. This scenario wouldn’t fall under the criteria that one would need to meet simply because those individuals do not have a terminal illness.
James Hanson’s platform, to me, falls into the category of ‘cancer shaming’. James was diagnosed with the same brain cancer that Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with and they both had the same surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. The similarities end there. James’ cancer proved to be less aggressive than Brittany’s and he responded well to chemotherapy and a restrictive clinical trial. Due to his response and his current NED (No Evidence of Disease) status, James clearly feels that if you have a serious life threatening illness you fall into one of two groups: you either fight or like Brittany, you give up. Brittany didn’t give up. In fact, she took the facts of her diagnosis and then her prognosis and made an informed plan for her end of life care.
What James fails to recognize is that not every cancer, not every diagnosis has the same outcome. Forming opinions about people he doesn’t know and then making blanket statements about them is insulting. By making the claim that those that choose Aid-in-Dying are ‘giving up’, he’s forming an opinion about me. James Hanson doesn’t know me. James Hanson has never spoken to me.
I left the discussion feeling impassioned. Aid-in-Dying is a choice that terminally ill patients should have access to if they so choose. It’s also something they can opt not to do if they change their mind. It’s not up to anyone else to decide for me. I stand with Compassion & Choices as they continue to work to bring this legislation to New York State and I hope to help them make it a reality.
Susan Rahn, a wife and mother, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer at age 43 in 2013. She has been active on all Social Media platforms and blogs under the name: Stickit2stage4 to chronicle her illness and bring awareness to the reality that more money needs to go into research in order to win the war against Breast Cancer. Susan is also working with Compassion & Choices to help bring Aid-in-Dying legislation to New York State where she currently resides with her family.