Published on March 13, 2020
Deciding to stop treatment is a deeply personal decision that patients, their families and team of doctors sometimes face when treatments have failed. Quality of life now becomes more important than the quantity of days. This paradigm shift happens a lot when patients and their caregivers decide to spend their last days at home, traveling or visiting loved ones, instead of being tethered to a hospital bed.
There is a lot of support for a patient’s quality of life, and recently the quality of death is coming into focus. For example, there is a movement for Medical Aid in Dying that can help patients in some states put the way in which one passes away into their own hands, and that is powerful. Two-time cancer survivor Carol Preston served as a legacy leader, similar to an intern, in Annapolis, Maryland, and testified on behalf of patients before the State House, the House of Delegates and the Senate. She has served as a tireless advocate for patients and continues to fight for the right for Maryland residents to have the power in end-of-life issues.
States including Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, have passed such laws. Some patients have moved to a different state to try to place the decision-making back into their hands. These decisions are not made lightly and for those who have the first-hand experience of watching the death process, they know it is not like in the movies. And it seems a shame that some patients end up suffering in the hospital, instead of peacefully at home.
A Closer Look: The Law in Colorado
In 2016, Colorado voters approved a statute, which allows an eligible terminally ill person with a prognosis of six months or less to live to request medical aid-in-dying medication. The criteria were developed in such a way as to empower patients to make their end-of-life experience their own. Patients must meet certain criteria, such as the following:
- Being a resident of the state who is at least 18 years old
- Given a prognosis of being of sound mind (not clinically depressed)
- Being able to personally administer the medicine
The Gift of Time
Cherie Rineker, a patient with multiple myeloma, went through 7 years and many rounds of treatment before making a big decision. Some of the treatment was successful and led to minimal residual disease. However, when the cancer returned, she moved to Colorado to get the paperwork completed in order to ensure that she could end life, when and if needed, on her own terms. At 51, she wanted to do what was best for herself; finish a book she was writing about her cancer journey and spend time with her husband and daughter. As she says in this video, “the message of hope for me now is to absolutely live these last months to its fullest, to live it very conscientious, very purposeful.”
Cherie passed away in 2019, and her legacy will help patients like her, going forward.
- Lauren Evoy Davis
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