Features Oct 9, 2008 at 4:00 am

I Hate to Play the I-Just-Watched-My-Mother-Die Card—But, Um, I Just Watched My Mother Die

Kyle T. Webster


May you and your family find comfort and solace in the memories of the good times which you shared with your mother/loved one.

Thanks again, Dan, for your powerfully written words of reason.
Dan - This had to hurt to live through and write about, as it hurt me to read of it. Hopefully, your mother's courage will not be limited to a Tucson hospital room. She did a marvelous job raising at least one son who can share with and help others at tough times in their lives.

Sometimes I wonder if the Joel Connelly's of the world, who oppose I-1000 out for religous reasons, are joined by those entities that profit on the pain & suffering of folks like Mother Savage. (there's an odd name)

Insurance & pharmaceutical companies make a lot of money on the terminally ill. Anyone know how much those groups are contributing to the anti-dignity cause?

And for Catholics to talk about the "sanctity of life" is the height of hypocrisy. No organization in human history has as much innocent blood on their hands as the pope and his gang. "Hour of god's choosing" is shorthand for "we'll let you die when we're good & ready". (or, "when you're out of money")
That was really well written Dan, condolences to you and your family.
Thank you for sharing from your heart with such courage.
My parents almost lost both my brother and when we were younger. They saw intolerable suffering... I now see thanks to your words how it must have been for them at certain key moments. I was a teenager at the time and remember them looking at me and holding my hands as a priest delivered me my last rights. Seeing the fear, disbelief and pain in their eyes (I remember thinking, "Is it odd that this priest is comforting me?" and "Would he do it if he knew I was a lesbian?" and "I wish I had told my mom" at that moment - off topic in some ways but not in others.... long story which I will refrain from getting into any further)... I started this only wanting to thank you so much for telling your story. I wish you and your family the very best, comfort, and love. Please keep speaking out about all you have.... I have sent this article to my entire email list & I will be voting against Stephen Harper.

Keep up the good work. I wish I could have met your mother she sounds amazing. I will go home and give my catholic pro-choice, pro–gay marriage a huge hug tonight.
Thank you Dan for weighing in and giving your very real mother's face to this issue.
One question that comes to mind is the "suicide clause" that exists in life insurance that cancels a policy payout in the instance of a suicide. I wonder how many insurance companies are tossing dollars to support this issue that will surely prove more lucrative to them in the long run. A recent news report of a woman who was denied a lung-transplant by her insurance company, but offered a Rx for a lethal medication, is another unwanted outcome that comes to mind. I support this measure, and hate the idea of a Hobson's choice between suffering or insuring my family's financial stability.
Dan, first and formost, my heart and tears go out to you and your family. Reading your article brought back a lot of memories. You see, 20 years ago, the docs sent my grandmother home with a shunt and a box of morpophine and told her if things got too much for her, XX cc's would take care of things. She and my grandfather stared at that box for almost 3 weeks while she became so weak caring for herself was out of the question. (the docs had given here only a few weeks at the most to live) THey called my husband and I to come over (with our 6 month old daughter in tow) and be with them. After a 4 hour drive, we were there. THey told us what they wanted to do. My grandmother was to weak to load the syringe, so I did it. We all held hands as she faded in and out, and finally she pushed the syringe into the shunt. She fell asleep. It took about 45 minutes for everything to secome to the morphine's effect of shutting everything down. We called the doc first. I'll never forget it, but I'm thankful to the doc for providing this option. I think.
I was surprised to learn that I have become a Catholic! I was shocked! I have tried and tried to avoid being one, all my life. I favored abortion rights. I think that stem cell research is a great idea. I think that civil unions are okay. Wasn't that enough? How did I go wrong?

I also am opposed to assisted suicide. I oppose assisted suicide because some day those chickens will come home to roost for everyone of us. Laws morph over time, depending on the present circumnstances. They do not stop at present measures, and when they are enacted they become easier to erode the protections.

We are entering a period of great political and economic uncertainty. No one knows what the NEXT ten years will bring. The past ten years are no guide when we start treading into such uncharted waters. Only history gives us a guide and we must be wise and foresighted to see the dangers ahead, and not be fooled.

Someone wants this law very, very much. Where is the pressure? Not likely it's the families, I think.

The unspoken economic forces that are driving someone to spend $2.5 Million dollars to relentlessly campaign for this measure , for all these years in so many states, despite defeat after defeat, are likely to grow in intensity, as we face budget cuts, failures in insurance comverages and increasing costs, Medicaid failures, and increasinig pressures on disabled adults and elders.

Every society that has adopted these laws, sooner or later, falls prey to indifference and apathy over the killing of supposedly unproductive human beings. That spreads to all of us.

That is the part I oppose, because I am the senior parent of a gentle and beautiful adult autistic daughter who our state has appointed a public guardian for that she neither wants or needs, and we worry that laws like this would give the state the right during an economic downturn to decide to dispose of in some future modified version. To us the slippery slope is very, very real, given the impossible and unlawful things the state has to our family done already. This just puts another brick into place.

Generally few people were aware of what destructive economic forces were unleashed ten years ago when Wall Street was deregulated. So, now we are here. The Jeremiahs were right. Effects of laws like these are not always immediately apparent.

Be careful! Be very careful! This is how Germany went in the late 1930s. This is how Holland went into euthanasia during the past 20 years. There is a lot of age and handicapped prejudice and there is a shortage of sophisticated voters right now as we can see.

Even if one person suffers a wrongful death because of this law, it is too much to tolerate. Many prescription druges these days cause depression a a side effect. How easy it would be to take the one-two punch to assisted suicide and save the state money by steering patients into drinking the KoolAid?
You have my condolences, on the passing of your mother. You can be grateful she went relatively quickly.

But as we all know, sometimes our bodies can betray us.

My family got the call that my grandfather had only hours to live on a Saturday morning - his cardio-pulmonary system was failing after a long bout with cancer. Most people die within a few hours of when they start to "mottle." My mother, who is a chaplin at a nursing home, was very familiar with how these things go and did her best to prepare everyone.

My grandfather was completely unaware of us; absorbed in morphine and his own pain, he could only groan and call for my grandmother. We watched him carefully and spent our time arguing with the doctor to give him morphine more frequently.

Defying all expectations, his state lasted through to the next tuesday morning. His pain and delirium lasted for days, not hours. The hardest part was watching my grandmother, who would not eat or sleep... a woman who had already wasted down to 90 lbs under the stress of caring for him.

He didn't go quickly, he didn't go peacefully, his pain wasn't controlled well with morphine, and he didn't even know his loved ones were there. As a deeply pragmatic man, I highly doubt my grandfather would have chosen such an ending... but he didn't have a choice.

I believe that while death is hard on everyone, a quick death is a blessing for the people dying and those who love them.
Sorry it is back again. I can't figure out what is going on with this site. It showed up at first, then it was deleted, now it is back again. Apologies to the moderators and thanks for a good airing of issues.
Fantastic piece, Dan. I went through similar bedside situations at the age of 25 and have the deepest sympathy for you.
Thank you Dan and again more condolences,and I would like some more time to try at helping the mentally challenged with understanding the realities of dealing with "chronic hospitalization".

Chronic hospitalization is a condition this layman will use now to ellucidate the terminal and hopeful feelings of those individuals who spend more than their neighbors "comparative valued hours" in "symbiotic sympathy" and or "simulated theoretical arm chairing of rhetoric".

For all the non-professionals out there in the world who only go to hospitals to visit the accidental insured, or the birth of a new family member, the death with dignity issue may seem a rather tight fisted approach to the defense of this writers dignity and anger and anguish.

More on name recognition later.

Let's get to the heart of the laymamn's term of defense, shall we?

The community of professional writers have many avenues with which to vent frustrations, and egos aside, support of the difficult times all human beings share as a species.

As this "layman" witer will freely admit, I "jumped" into thias defense club for the reasons that 'this is my high school thesis', in reality....being played out before all of you... as is "your high school thesis"... and graduations beyond that point also.

This by no means is a statment denagrading Dan and his family or friends.

The grammatical and personal reasons for support are secondary to the message of rationalized indignation some political or religious "deserters" face when confronted with the "community of friends and family pressuring" and second guessing the reasons of grief and personal choice.

Any person who has been to the Union Gospel Mission , will have a pleathora of differing opinions on drugs, alchohol, sex, life, death, God... the good meal... and the poor quality of life out in the streets.

All of those words are contained in the dictionaries of life...

including the Bible ( Catholic ) and the other books of faith that seperate man and woman in the court of law.

If , those of little faith have a problem with flags waving and arm bands and dark colored glasses and personal choices between all kinds of differing people on the planet in a country where the

" openly disguised segregation of bigotry and sexism and discrimination against gay or lesbian men or women "

clashes with the older generations fears of long term belief expeirences of individual lives should carefully consider their own mortality and sin before casting blame and judgement against a blanket of compassionate groupings of co-workers, families and friends.

If you stay in a place long enough, you can make that "mission" your life's work.

If you want something more in life... go out and find it.

As to name recognition... and Joel Connelly... Joel... go out to netflix and rent that DVD Jennifer Connelly was in dealing with tv and heroin and city life and junkies and sex and sex and sex and tell me what you think of paranoia and "schitzoid fledgling high school writers another day.
Thank you, Dan, for your intimate story. I agree it's about choice. Your mother's choice, your choice, my choice. I'll be voting yes. Meanwhile, best wishes to you and your family.
Great piece Dan. A card well played!
Very powerful. Very right and true. Thank you for for sharing your experience, and thank you for showing people why we should all vote yes on 1000.
"Fuck your God."

Thank you, Dan. Very much. I've never read words that gave me more truth.

I watched my dad die at home of pancreatic cancer. He died surrounded by people who loved and adored him, in his home, even with his beloved cat, and in such intolerable pain that he couldn't even ingest his pain medications and didn't recognize either of his children.

It's not eugenics, it's not inhumane, it's humanity at it's best and most compassionate. It's preserving human dignity.
Dan, my heart goes out to you and your family. I've read both of your autobiographical books, and while I'm a very big fan of you, I was also a huge fan of your mother. She always seemed in your writing like the kind of mom everybody should have--kind, compassionate, supportive, and funny.

I do not accept the idea of a God who wants people to suffer. I think that if God exists and lives up to His good publicity--perfect, all-knowing, loving and merciful--He damn well doesn't want ANYONE to suffer needlessly.

If I lived in Washington state, I would vote for I-1000. Death is scary, and no one should also have to fear that it'll be painful and drawn out. No one should have to be afraid of watching their loved ones suffer helplessly, with no options for making it stop.

I believe in love, I believe in mercy, and I believe in the right to choose.

I also believe in you. Thank you for sharing this, so that people will know.
Thank you, Dan, and condolences on your mother's death. I understand the issue of a slippery slope, and I do not, as a rule, support suicide as a solution. At the same time... when you have a terminal illness, when you know that all you have in front of you is pain and terror, when you know that no one can help you and there is nothing left to be done, when you know that every day you live from that point on is racking up deeper and deeper debt for your loved ones... an option needs to exist, without fear, without condemnation, and without the worry of committing an illegal act or making others suffer for your decision. This is important, and I'm glad to have read your article.
Thank you for your courage and for your well articulated points on the issue, Dan. Your words here are painful to read, but have a great deal of power...the way that some people don't understand your argument infuriates me.
Let me add my sympathy and condolence on this loss. And massive thanks from me too for saying well what I have long thought.
Deciding when to end one's life is a personal matter that no one should be able to usurp from a thinking being who has harmed none.
And I agree--Fuck any god that even if it existed would want people to suffer so, and the same for the minions that invoke it.
May healing come soon.
that was one of the most beautiful essays i've ever read.
I am so sorry for your loss.As a former care giver.I am 100% for I-1000 to pass.Most people say it is assisting suicide.I say its giving them comfort.Especially if they have a DNR order.Who the hell are we to say,so and so needs to suffer.For the
sake of religious zealots.I know for my self I-1000.Is doing a serivce to all.The poor individauls suffering through a terminal illness.Yes it should be a choice to make.And we do live in a "Free" country.I am 100% behind this.I am very sorry for your loss though.Mothers are the first person to touch your soul,and they help inspire the greatness within.
I am so sorry for your loss.
But I just can't vote for the initiative. In a profit-driven health care system wherein the care we receive is based on either what we can afford or what our insurance will pay, we just cannot have "Well, we won't cover your care because you might not recover, but we will cover your suicide" as an option.

FIRST we need to reform our health care system. THEN we can talk about doctor-assisted suicide.

Though even then I will have qualms; step into a veterinary office and ask the staff about convenience euthanasia performed on "much-loved" pets who are not really sick but are old enough to be a bother, or have behavior problems, or are expensive.
That is what we, the people are like.
Thank you for this.
In 2000, my mom, a cynical Catholic, died a very slow, painful death. I was her caregiver and she died at home, in her bed, while I was tending to her bed sores. Her heart finally gave up. She was an emaciated shell, unable to stand, appetite gone, and completely in despair from the excruciating pain she lived with for several years. There were repeated times where she asked me for an overdose of her morphine medication, but I could not legally give it to her. I would have, if I had been allowed, because she was the one asking and I would have done whatever she asked.

I will be voting yes on I-1000 because my mom should have had the right to escape the horrible death she suffered.
Thank you, and many condolences. This was an amazing essay.
Thanks for posting your story. I'm certain it will help many people faced with those decisions and not enough time to make them, perhaps without the benefit of other family members to reassure them that they are doing the right thing. Thank you.
I think this lays out my philosophy about this issue perfectly Dan. Thanks for giving voice to those of us who believe that we should have choice.
way to make me cry at work.
Thank You for sharing your experience and views with us.

As someone who has worked in and around a highly conservative religious right -even having worked for a Catholic Archdiocese, I really felt the humanity our your loss come through loud and clear in the face of those who only see one way of thinking and being.

Just as someone has the right to live, we should be given the right to go peacefully as we wish... or they are not rights at all.

Thank You so much. My thoughts and heart go out to You and your family's loss.

-Stephen Gilbert
I am so very sorry for what you had to go through, Dan, as I recently went through nearly the same thing with my own mother. She was forced to slowly suffocate after fighting cancer for three years, and I stayed home and took care of her until she died.
I know for certain that my mother would have chosen to collect herself, prepare herself, and end her life before the agonizing pain and panic did so for her.
I made sure to re-register to vote in the county I moved to for two reasons:
one was to vote for Barack Obama, and the second was to vote for I-1000.
Christ, Dan...you are such a beautiful writer. I'm usually at work when I go on The Stranger's website, and many a time I've had to stifle loud guffaws or blink back tears after reading your work (no privacy in Cubeville!). This was such a moving piece...I am so deeply sorry you had to go through that.
Thank you Dan. I appreciate you sharing your personal story, and I also appreciate you taking the time to put together such a well-crafted argument in favor of I-1000.
I really worry that we're so afraid of death in this country, that we will fight off opportunities to enhance the way we handle it. Most of us can't even talk about it openly enough to understand what it's going to be like when it comes.
I support the initiative because it gives patients autonomy over the manner in which they die. It offers compassion to those who are already terminal. I think society has a strong interest in preserving life, but sometimes individual liberty is more important—like when you're already dying and you're trying to decide how you want that death to come about.
Also, some in the medical profession would tell you that PAS already occurs but under the radar. Legalizing it will lend an openness to the discussion.
Regarding "In Defense Of Dignity" and "Just Confused":
Bravo, Amen, and Thank You!
the IV goes in the OTHER WAY - i.e. the needle points UP the arm and consequently the tubing will point roughly toward the hand.
Love you Dan.
Thank you, Dan. You really put the whole idea of dying in dignity in perspective. I intend to share your article with my friends who disagree with PAS.
Condolences to Dan, and thanks as well for writing the piece.

My father died of ALS about two years ago now. For those who don't know, its a debilatating disease that literaly erodes your muscle function until you lose complete control of yourself, eventually causing organ failure. My father could talk, breathe, eat, walk...Nothing. He had a magnetic dot afixed to his forehead which allowed him to point to phrases on a computerized screen with what small amount of muscle control he still had in his neck.

Basically, he was a shell of a human with a still functioning and lucid mind. Fortunately for him, he was treating in Portland, Oregon, a State that ensures patients rights for death with dignity. There were no cures, there were no more options, all we had was heartbreak, a horrible disease, and a father that wanted to die without fear, and with his loving family around. He chose the medications, and he died with all of his friends and family by his side, holding hios hands and telling him they loved him.

This was by no means a hasty decision to end someones life. This was something long thought out and heavily argued in my family. Some were against it at the beginning, but as the end drew near, realized just what it all meant. For all those who oppose the initiative, I beg you to reconsider. There are provisions in the law that make it impossible to put to death a metally ill patient just becasue, or a depressed person becasue they want to die that day. Death with dignity is a well thought out, incredibly difficult decision. It takes couseling by doctors, numerous appointments with various types of consultation, and most importantly, a terminal illness that will without doubt cause death.

No one is advocating ending the lives of minorly ill patients...No one would want that for anybody. The point of this legislation is to ensure that the people who face the most excruciating deaths will be given some relief. By Washington State law, my father's feeding tube would have have to been pulled, and we would have had to watch him slowly starve to death, all while gasping for air in double-pneumonia filled lungs. How is that fair to him? This way he was comfortable, surrounded by family and friends, and most importantly, my Mother, brothers and I got to be there to hold his hand and tell him we loved him.

Please think about the implications of your vote. This is something that may affect you on a profound level in the future. As Dan says, this won't affect you if you don't want it to, but please don't take the choice away from those who really do need it.
My Mom died of cervical cancer at 90 years of age. She died here at home. We also had to administer morphine because of her pain. I was with her during her last few hours, putting cream on her face and hands, combing her hair, doing her nails (all the things she loved having me do to her), playing Cuban music and dancing around the room. I did not know whether she could hear or feel my touch, but at around 11:30 pm I fell asleep next to her (I was so exhausted by then, emotionally and physically). Her face was very peaceful. Then thirty minutes or so later I woke up and her hand was on my face and she had a lovely smile fixed on her face. She was gone. But her hand and her smile told me that she had heard me, she had felt my touch, she knew I was there with her. In spite of the morphine, she reached out to share her love one last time. Finally, she was without pain. But my pain had just begun.

Although I cherish the precious time spent with her during her last 30 days, I also knew that if there had been an alternative, she would have chosen to have left this world without having felt all that pain and agony. And I would have welcomed such an alternative for her, because it was awful to have to drug her so she could extend her existence (not "life") a few more weeks.

I disagree with those who are hell-bent on preventing each one of us from choosing how we exit from our lives. Our final moments on Earth should not be politicized or ruled by any religion or church. It is a private moment in the life of a human being.

Thank you, Dan, for sharing your most touching moments with your mother.

I wish I could have had the opportunity to sit in front of the fireplace with your mom, drinking scotch and shooting the shit. She sounds like a brave and intelligent woman, much like her son, and the "quote" you gave re: church leaders raping children and micromanaging individual's last breaths made me want to run up Capitol Hill to hunt you down and high-five you. Your story was powerful and heartbreaking. You're viewpoints are brilliant. I kind of wish you ran the world. I was already for I-1000 before reading your article and empathising with the personal hell your mother, you, and the rest of your family went through, and I hope that others will be open-minded and supportive and help get this Initiative passed. My fingers are crossed.
And yes.

The only objections I hear or read are fear-based: of creeping forced euthanasia, or the like. Religions do play the fear card well - It's all dey got.

I experienced the same fate with my mother, five years ago. I still miss her, but in time only the sweetness remains.

"God" bless, Dan.
Dan... I am so sorry. I would hold the glass of water to my mother's lips, too. Why do they deny us this?

My thoughts are with you and your family.
Dan my grandpa also died of Pulmonary Fibrosis. He only lasted 3 months after being diagnosed. If I could have spared him and my family the pain I would have.
Thanks Dan. For sharing a deeply personal moment and for discussing a subject that will impact even more people than sex does. Death, and how it happens in modern medicine, is something our society has refused to acknowledge honestly for far too long. I decided after my own fathers death that I would be clear and honest about what killed him-a morphine overdose. Said overdose self administered in the midst of a painfull and futile struggle against an incurable cancer; but still the true cause of his death was massive levels of morphine.
The inablity of the foes of Death with Dignity initiative to acknowledge the simple fact that most American's who die in hospice situations die this way is an intellectual and moral dishonesty. We are already speeding along the final days/weeks/hours of virtually any terminal patient in hospital/hospice care situation right now, but continue to maintain the "palliative care" fiction. Find me a doctor, nurse, or professional hospice worker who says differently.
The bottom line is that we die-this is not an opt out situation for anyone afterall-gay, straight, catholic, muslim, jew, pentecostal, or agnostic we all must shuffle off this mortal coil. I want to choose the level of pain and suffering I may endure. Neither I-1000, nor I, seek to impose a standard of acceptable pain and suffering, but to simply allow those who choose to honestly confront their own need, in their own time, in their own manner. I actually have some resources for the illegal purchase of opiate based drugs(shocking I know)I-1000 simply makes this possible for those who don't have access to the illegal market, and removes the ridiculous "warnings" about "overdose" that my fathers doctor was legallly compelled to deliver.
My dad always insisted we be honest as a family, with our love, with our intellects, and with our spirits.
It's time we all be honest about how we want to die.
Hey Dan,
I went through a similar experience with my Grandmother a few years ago, when she passed away from Emphysema with all of us standing around her bed. I still don't know if I would choose the path myself, but I wholeheartedly support a person's choice at the last. Even Martin Sheen won't dissuade me from voting in favor.
You continue to amaze me with your ability to put your life experiences, even your hardest life experiences, into such compelling words. I remain at once saddened by your pain yet amazed at how you reach through your pain to try to help someone else.
Thanks Dan for writing this powerful essay. My mother was recently diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and has started using a portable oxygen tank. It's scary. I dread the day when she may have to go through some of the things your mother did as she battles this disease. I can only hope that when her time comes, she has some ability to choose how she goes and that her family can be near her to help her in any way we can.

I'm so sorry. It's hard to know what to say, except to say that your mother must have been a remarkable woman to have raised someone like you with integrity, compassion and tolerance. You honour her whenever you display those traits.

Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss.

Warmest regards,

Dan, I'm a practicing Episcopalian who supports end of life choices. My heart aches for you and your family. I hope your words help other people understand that this issue isn't about "assisted suicide"; it's about dignity, and love. Above all, love. I would never want my parents to suffer if they had other options. I hope someone formerly opposed will read your column and decides to support I-1000.
Thank you for a powerful and touching article, and my condolences.

I lost my dad to cancer five years ago, and the doctors told him he had a week to live. And it wasn't going to be a very pleasant week either: they said it was likely to be full o pain, with a good chance of dementia and incontinence before it was over.

Fortunately he had the connections to get enough pills to escape such a horrible fate, and he died with his mind intact.

This should be a RIGHT, he should not have had to depend on underground connections.

To Joel Connelly and his ilk: if your God is sick and twisted enough to demand that you have to go through a week of suffering like that, that's your business. But if you try to deny the rest of us our right to choose a pain-free, dignified end because you think it's not "moral" or "family values", then fuck your God. Vote Yes on I-1000.
Dear Dan,

I am the widow referenced in your Feature Article who supports Death With Dignity, I-1000. Thank you for telling your story. Your pain saddened me. I cannot understand the kind of thinking from someone who never met my husband nor met your mother but insists they have the right to tell them how long they had to suffer. It is horrible to have someone you love beg to die so they can be free from their pain and know there's nothing you can do. I understand people may oppose this for religious reasons but our country was founded on a separation between church and state. I hope some day we find our way back to that liberty.
She whom we love
and lose
is no longer
where she was before.
She is now
wherever we are.
St. John Chrysostom

I cannot express my agreement with "Yes on I-1000" strongly enough, and your mother's situation is an example. It appears that she had a reasonably peaceful death, but she might have chosen differently earlier in the progression of her illness if the option had been available to her. I'm 71 years old, still healthy, and a firm believer that what happens to me at the end of my life should be MY choice. I'm 100% nonreligious and strongly resent the intrusion of religious types into what should be a personal decision between the patient and her doctor. What I do with MY body is no business of theirs. I thought that 40 years ago when I was concerned about a woman's ability to terminate an unwanted pregnancy and I think that now when the issue will be how I choose t0 end my life.
I am glad you wrote this Dan. My condolences to you.

My father died 5 weeks ago after suffering with colon cancer for 2 years. He finally stopped chemo when the tests came back that it wasn't helping much...he wanted a better quality of life until he died. I wonder if Connelly would think that anyone who did that was trying to kill themselves.

His body eventually broke down so much that his legs stopped working (not sure how to describe it other than he just lost the ability to move around.) A short time later he was found by police on a welfare call from the neighbors. His body temp was 79 degrees and all of his organs were shutting down.

When the doctors were warming his body up in an effort to save him, he was fighting them...would that be considered suicide? 14 hours later he was gone. But really, how much pain was he in? I know he would have had doctors help him once his mobility was gone. Once he would have depended on others to do the basic functions of life. Instead he died, alone and in pain. This is the memory I will have of the end of my fathers life....and that hurts.
Thank you for sharing your story, and I'm so sorry for your loss.

Everyone should have a choice about how to end their life. I think it would be very difficult for me to choose to die, but I would never want to deny that choice to others.
I've been reading you since you started Savage Love, and feel you have given your readers the gift of a substantial
amount the wisdom and perspective that characterized your mom. You shared with us how she helped you be the person you are, and quoted her enough that I feel like I got to know her a little bit through you. Thank you for sharing this so personal righteous fury. Your mom rocked, and she, as well as the rest of us should get to pass the way we want to, but simple things like that are easily lost in the haze of superstition. Now, though, from a Catholic mom perspective...We should all pass with our children and loved ones weeping at our feet..you and I are from similar backgrounds Dan, and I can see a heaven where she's sitting around a card table with the friends she loved the most looking exactly the way she is in her own minds eye, telling the story to her friends...and she is proud of the dignity with which she passed, because although she may have been terrified of dying in pain, according the the rules of the game of life that you sign up for as a Christian, that may be a possibility and to win at the game and go to heaven, you may have to die that way. So she did. And she did - she won .
Jesus died in pain and Christians believed they are somehow purified by the agony he suffered, and have been living through this for two thousand years. They've got it all wrong. They've taken some teachings from a nice Jewish revolutionary and wrapped a death cult around it. So yes, fuck that particular version of god.
And I know I would hold the glass to my Mom's lips too, but then she wouldn't get to win her particular version of the game and that's important. Your Mom had you right there with her and got choices, and her family in puddles at her feet- in my book you did just right by her.....love you Dan, keep it comin' read "if"
While your piece did not convince me (as I couldn't agree more with you than I already do), it did reduce me to tears. Thank you for that beautiful piece, and I'm so, so sorry.
Oh, Dan. I'm so sorry your and your family had to endure such suffering. This piece was absolutely gut-wrenching, and I don't see how someone could read it and come out against this initiative. Compassion and common sense demand that this pass.

My deepest condolences to your family, and I dearly hope the morphine eased your mom's last moments here. So, so sorry.
Thank you for this angry and intelligent and fair and reasonable and truly human face that you have put on this issue. Great Job.
While I already believed in being able to choose to end your suffering with dignity and without pain, and thus this was a bit of preaching to the choir - even if I did not your story would have convinced me. I was brought to tears by it and once more am deeply sorry for your loss.
Damn straight, Mr. Savage; that is a child's duty, and an honor.
That was incredibly powerful. Thank you for writing it.

Thank you for sharing this with us - you family ar ein my thoughts, and your suffering is on the hands of all those who conspired to deny your mother the right to an easy death.

Thank you for your courage and wisdom

Heavens, this made me cry. You're absolutely right, Dan, noone should have to go through that shit - I know I'd rather end my own life, on my own terms and of my own volition, than die slowly and/or in pain.

Any dog who's terminally ill gets better treatment than that. Nobody would object taking a dog to the vet and putting him to sleep when there's no chance for recovery anymore and when the only choice is whether his death should be slow and painful or quick and painless, yet we don't do the same thing for humans; we aren't allowed to, and just because some old fart in a funny hat in Rome thinks it's against his religion.

It's insane.
Thank you for sharing this....

My condolences to you and your family.
I cried.

I live in the Netherlands and I'm so glad I have these options available to me. My father didn't have them, my mother did. She didn't need them in the end but it was of great comfort to know she could leave at a moment's notice. That was probably the best pain-management she had in her last month.

Dan, my condolences and I wish you and your family a lot of strength in the days and weeks and months and years ahead.
Superb Dan. Thanks for turing your tragedy into a learning moment for the rest of us. I admire your courage and prose.
Jesus, Dan, I am so sorry...

I have been a nurse for 24 years. helath care people have been quietly speeding the death of patients for hundreds of years. Your mom's nurse should have medicated her more often after asking you if she seemed to be in pain.
I was deeply moved by the eloquence of your words. I totally agree that death with dignity should be an available option.

You enjoy the best wishes of your wide audience.

Ivar Husa
Euthanasia is a sin, until the Pope does it. Pope John Paul turned down medical treatment and his final words were "Let me go to the house of the Father" according to documents released by the Vatican. Details at tinyurl.com/3l7krn
I wish you and your family well. Thank you for letting your mother make her choice. You are right. Fuck their god!
i'm really glad you have had this opportunity to express yourself but sad at the experiences you report.

your mothers pain pains me too.

your views seem reasonable and balanced and would be supported by the majority of my countrymen and many other countries that REALLY honour peoples lives individually by giving them the space to be logically and rationally decisive.

this is what people deserve in the advanced civilisation we have created.

anyone that would like to see progress in the arena of self determination would be well advised never to vote for anyone that believes in god. people that believe in god also believe they know what is the best for you. that is, they believe you are not capable of making the best decision for yourself because god is the only one that can.

what a load of nonsense.
Twice today I have wanted to cheer for you.

thank you for saying what you say.
Warm thoughts, mental hugs, and lots of good wishes to you and your family Dan. I recently went through nearly the identical situation, watching my father die of COPD, so I can relate.

It took three days of his struggling for every breath. For the first two days, he was medicated with narcotics at a level that deadened any physical pain, but left him conscious and alert, so he got to experience the horrible feeling of desperately trying to breath.

(Folks, if you'd like an empirical experience, take a pencil, and use it to punch a SMALL hole in a baggie. Then hold that baggie to your face and try to breathe through it. See if you can make it for 5 minutes struggling for each breath before you can't stand it any more. Now, contemplate TWO DAYS AND NIGHTS of that sensation, with your only choice at the end of those two days being death.)

Finally(!!), the doctors and nurses increased his prescription level to the point where he was essentially unconscious for the last 4 or 5 hours of his life.

My dad was at least semi-religious, so I don't know if he would have chosen an assisted suicide if it were available. But under those same circumstances, I know that *I* would have.

Does that make me weak in the eyes of some? Does that offend the religiosity of some? I don't much care.

It's my life, it's my death. It's none of anybody else's freaking business. I'll make the choice. If the time comes for that choice, and the choice is still illegal, then I'll figure out a way to smuggle a Hemlock and Seconal smoothie into the ICU.
Thank you, Dan, for sharing that beautiful essay. I don't remember ever reading something in the Stranger that made me cry like that.
I am truly sorry to hear about what you went through. I lost my father to suicide earlier this year, and a friend of mine lost hers about a year ago in a similar fashion to what happened to you. The only difference was, her family was forced to to make the decision to take her father off life support, which was an unthinkable position for anyone to be in.

Just cherish all of the joy that she brought you in her lifetime. It's going to be painful, whether you watched your loved one die, or whether it was sudden and shocking as in the case of my father. This is what I wrote about it a few days after Dad died:


It helped a lot to get things off my chest, so I'm sure that your writing this will prove therapeutic in the long run. Stay strong.

"Every society that has adopted these laws, sooner or later, falls prey to indifference and apathy over the killing of supposedly unproductive human beings. That spreads to all of us."

Got actual evidence?
There is currently a discussion of this article and issue at Metafilter
The "those who're opposed have the option not to" argument can be used to argue in favor of all sorts of things. If you're against rape, then don't rape someone. If you're opposed to murder, child molestation, domestic violence, the looting of the third world's resources, etc., then don't do it. Just don't interfere with my "right" to do so. Situational ethics once again. There's no ultimate right or wrong, and everything -- everything -- becomes permissible. Do you want NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association) to have that opportunity? You can even justify terrorist acts that way.
Dan – I fell in love with your mother when she would join you on your KCMU radio program. She (and you) are rare, precious people.

Mike T. Said:

"The "those who're opposed have the option not to" argument can be used to argue in favor of all sorts of things..."

Your argument is deeply flawed. Everything you listed involves an interaction without the consent of all parties. In contrast, I-1000 is about people's right to control THEIR OWN lives. Can you see the difference?
Dan, I just have to say I'm weeping for you, your family, your mother, and all of us who have had or will have to face this situation.

You're right about what the compassionate and sane option is.
This is the most moving defense of assisted suicide I've ever read. Thank you for sharing your story (given how difficult it was to read, I can only imagine how hard it was to write). It angers me that these people - religious or otherwise - who pretend to care so much about life, give no thought to what that life consists of. They completely ignore happiness and emotional or physical pain simply because they refuse to acknowledge that what constitutes life isn't black-or-white. How can they possibly believe forcing someone to survive in a state of unknown pain is part of "God's plan" instead of torture? How dare they claim that denying someone's basic right to be legally (in addition to emotionally and sometimes spiritually) bound to the one they love is "pro-life"? Nothing could be more "anti-life". If pro-life means pro-a life stripped of liberty, individualism, dignity, or happiness, then I could not be more "anti-life". If, however, we consider a "pro-life" position to be in support of happiness and freedom, in favor of living life to one's fullest potential, then I, and you (my good sir) are two of the most adamant defenders of life I know.
Dan - I've enjoyed your cutting, valuable insights for years now. Thank you for writing this column at such a difficult time...what you've said is so important, and needs to be heard.

I had to make choices about the end of my son's life, and the legal right to make those choices was so absolutely critical to doing the right thing for him. To not have those rights would have made letting go of my son (unimaginably) more difficult than it was. Thank you for using your public forum to share this stuff. I didn't know your mother, but from what you've written about her, I'm sure she would be proud of you.

Thank you.
First and foremost, my condolences to you and your family, Dan.

When my mother sat my brother and I down one day three years ago and told us my grandfather was dying, we did what a grown daughter and an old-enough son should do. We held her hands when tears streamed down her face, telling us he had stage four lung cancer (which made sense, he smoked his entire life) and he had less than three months to live. Something inside of me knew he wouldn't last that long, and my mother must have known, too. She flew up to New Jersey and didn't come back until he was gone. It was decided we would go to our first days of school, and we would leave immediately when something happened.

The day or two before school started, I got The Phone Call. The one where my grandfather was definitely going to die much sooner than anyone expected (even though everybody kinda knew) and I needed to say goodbye. I don't remember what I said, other than the words, "I love you" about fifty billion times. It was sad. My mother's boyfriend at the time (who had just entered our lives within the last two years, and wouldn't marry her until the following year) wasn't much use, but my brother held my hand for much of the next several days.

As was my custom at the time, I had lunch with my grandmother before my afternoon class. When I came inside, she held me tighter than usual and kissed my cheek and told me he was gone, that he had died two hours ago. I cried for a while, we talked, and I went to my night class as though nothing had happened.

We, my future step-father, my brother, and I, left at four the following morning and drove from Floria to New Jersey to go to the funeral. I didn't cry until they started playing Taps, which I didn't expect-it wasn't a church funeral (he wasn't terribly religious), and though he was in the service, I was a 20-something anti-war hippie and didn't think I would cry. I cried like a fucking baby, and one of my many cousins had to hold my hand for the rest of it.

I often wonder what he would think of me. He, born in the 30s, veteran of two wars, who in life thought the purple nail polish I favored was a little garish and unbecoming to a woman, had a grandchild who moved to the big city and chose to live her life on her own terms. How he would feel if he knew a black man was running for president, and that some of his children and nearly all his of-age grandchildren were voting for him.

I remember my mother telling me he knew he was going to die on Monday (he did) and that all he wanted to do was die at home. He did not. He had no time to get his affairs in order, beyond various agreements with his children. He barely had time to get the rest of the abnormally large extended family on the phone before he died.

I've never had the nerve to ask my mother if he had had the opportunity to make the choice to take a little too much medication and go when he was ready. I hope he did. Every terminal patient should. And I would have helped him.
Thank you for sharing your story with us Dan. My heart goes out to you. 1000 has my yes vote.
That's the story no god worshiper ever thinks about when they come out against the right to die. Love and peace to you and your family...and your mom.
I wrote this as a response to your article, Dave :

The day before my father died

Thanks so much for talking this incredibly important issue. If I could vote for Initiative 1000, I would.
You have my deepest sympathy on the death of your mother.

If we are denied autonomy over our physical bodies, then what rights do we truly have? Self determination has to include the right to determine the manner and time of one's death, should one so choose.

--a hospice nurse
Thank you for your family's story, Dan. I can't really express my gratitude properly right now, because my own mother just passed away on October 8, after a brief but painful struggle with cancer. In the moment of her dying, we were unable to persuade the EMT's that her long-standing "Do Not Resuscitate" order was a valid legal document (this was in Michigan), and she suffered under their attentions for most of an hour.

It's my sincerest hope that Initiative 1000 passes, to spare other suffering patients and their families what ours went through. My mother was a staunch supporter of choice in dying, and was fully aware but unable to express her wishes. In her memory, I ask all who read this to consider the magnitude of suffering in the world and grant others the ability to choose for themselves how they will pass from among us.
So I'm not the only one brought to tears at work. Powerful piece.

My dad has moved from "don't let her (my mom) unplug me" to "you'll find my corpse in the woods, frozen, with a bottle of liquor, when it's my time to go".
Thank you for writing this. I had a very similar experience with my Mother as she died about one year ago. It was such a powerful experience and you captured it beautifully. The arguments over I-1000 make my head hurt. I fully respect a religious objection but simply cannot understand the need to impose that view on those of us who support the initiative.
So beautifully and compellingly written- it hurt to read it.
Thank you Dan.
My sympathies to you and your family, and I salute your for your courage in speaking up.

My father went through a similar ordeal with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. In a better world, he wouldn't have had to suffer through his last month of life.
I watched my grandfather die while tied against his explicit living will because the Las Vegas hospital decided to misplace it and deny knowing about it. I saw him spend days withering under relentless painful double lung cancer. Finally, even the machines began to fail to keep him alive, and the hospital belatedly agreed to disconnect him when the air pumps could no longer function correctly.

Thanks, Las Vegas. I salute you Dan. You handled it. I cried so hard it scared me. I hated to see him suffer because religion was used to predetermine his rights.

Well Said. My condolences to you and your family. Thank you for speaking out and for doing so so eloquently.
Dear Dan,
Thank you so much for writing about this. I can't imagine how much strength it must have taken to write, let alone publish. Ever since a debate class in high school, I've been on the fence about this topic. But as I sat in the Woodinville Park & Ride reading this today, I couldn't help but burst into uncontrollable sobs. You are so right. This is so well written, and I think your strongest argument is the one about "the hour chosen by God". If we can preserve people in vegetated states, why can't we release them into their final relief, if they so chose? Thank you, Dan, for really opening my eyes to this. I know what I'll be voting.
I am a grown man who wept alone in a Wallingford coffee house today reading your article. The hardest thing to do in life is indeed life its self, to be mortal. I recently cooked dinner at the Bailey-Boushay House and had the honor to be surrounded by people who would have an ultimately unique perspective on this article I'm sure. Thank you Dan.
- Garin Wedeking
Dan, I am so sorry for your loss. I have so much admiration for your mother, what I know of her from your books. Thank you, as always, for defending choice.

Do you have a link that I could throw money at to help the cause?
This summer I read aloud "The Commitment" to my boyfriend. We loved "The Mad Clipper." We are so sorry for your loss.

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