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Monday, July 28, 2008

Murder, He Wrote

posted by on July 28 at 13:47 PM

Or implied, I suppose. Joel Connelly has issues with I-1000—which would legalize “physician-assisted suicide” in Washington state—and writes in today’s Seattle P-I

Should Washington be a launching pad for a movement that seeks to transform a crime into a “medical treatment?”

I hate to play the I-just-watched-my-mother-die card, but, um, I just watched my mother die.

My mother had pulmonary fibrosis, a degenerative lung condition, and her death came after a long, miserable week in the hospital. (It also came just eight weeks after her doctors had given her two to five years to live.) She knew that pulmonary fibrosis would eventually end her life, and she’d done some research into just what sort of an end she could expect. It wasn’t going to be pretty. She would, when her time came, slowly and painfully suffocate to death.

Her time came sooner than we expected. She was on vacation in Arizona, visiting her sisters, when her lungs took a dramatic turn for the worse. After eliminating all other possibilities—a virus, pneumonia, some rare desert fungus—the doctors pulled my step-father and me out of my mother’s room. Nothing more could be done, he said. Her lungs were failing; one had a widening hole in it. When my step-father stepped out for a moment—to make a call, I think—the doctors suddenly needed a medical directive. Immediately. So it fell to me to walk into my mother’s room, tell her she was going to die, and lay out her limited options. She could be put on machines and live for a day or two or three in a coma—long enough for her other two children to get down to Tucson and say their goodbyes, which she wouldn’t be able to hear or respond to. Or she could last six hours or more by continuing to wear a brutal oxygen mask on that forced air into her lungs with so much force it made her whole body convulse. Or she could take the mask off and… suffocate to death. Slowly, painfully, over a couple of hours.

Her choice.

“No pain,” she said, “no pain.” Nurses promised to give her enough morphine to deaden any pain she might feel. So… after saying our goodbyes (which sounds dignified but those goodbyes included watching my affable step-father reduced to sobs, a mountain of snotty tissues, and my sister and I falling to the floor beside our mother’s deathbed in tears), they pumped my mother full of morphine. Was she in pain? We don’t know. She couldn’t talk to us now, or focus on us, but she was awake, with her eyes open. She gasped for breath, again and again, for two excruciating hours.

They gave her some more morphine—not enough to kill her, only enough to stave off the pain while her lungs finished her off. But was she in pain? I don’t know. I’m haunted by the thought that she could have been in pain—pain we promised to spare her—and that she had no way to tell us.

I don’t know what my mother would have done if she had had the choice to take a few pills and skip the last two senseless, zonked-out, undignified hours of her life. If she could’ve committed suicide, by her own hand, with a doctor “assisting” only by providing her with drugs and allowing her to administer them to herself, after saying her goodbyes, I suspect she would have done so, so great was her fear of dying in pain.

I do know, however, that she should have been allowed to make that choice for herself. It’s not a choice that Joel Connelly—or the Catholic Church—had a right to make for her.

I also know that, if my mother needed my help, I would’ve held a glass of water to her lips, so that she could swallow the pills that would’ve spared her those two hours of agony.

And that shouldn’t be a crime.

RSS icon Comments


Doctors have to make life and death decisions every day, including that of respecting patients' beliefs and instructions.

This is no different, and is subject to multiple physicians review prior to any action being taken.

How many children die every day in America due to US tax dollars being spent overseas in Iraq?

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 28, 2008 1:52 PM

My life, my body, my rules. If my particular beliefs say that I should keep on living until the last painful (and possibly undignified) moment, then I should have the right to make that choice. But if I believe, as I believe, that I have the right to make a decision to end my life and get assistance from a compassionate and understanding professional, then I should have that right too.

Posted by Martin | July 28, 2008 1:57 PM

I am willing to bet Connelly has not had to watch a loved one die in pain. So I will assume this is another fat assed white man telling everyone else how they choose to live, or end their life.

Posted by Andrew | July 28, 2008 2:01 PM

The Catholic Church has shown over and over for thousands of years that it's morality consists money and power and fuck people. It wants to exploit suffering the same way it exploits thousands of children, for it's own gratification. If you suffer it can send in the guilt priest to try to suck more money from you. If it can keep you lingering in one of their hospitals, it profits. The Churches disgraceful behavior has and should disqualify it from making "moral" decisions for anyone. And that fucking Nazi Pope should keep the fuck out of America's internal affairs.

Posted by Vince | July 28, 2008 2:04 PM

I don't think that's true, Andrew...

Posted by Dan Savage | July 28, 2008 2:05 PM

you are so right dan. i can say with absolute certainty that when my deeply beloved grandmother's and mother's time comes, neither of them will want to suffer needless, hopeless, excruciating pain to postpone the inevitable only a few more hours. And they shouldn't have to. It is only a little bit further than the living will, people should be able to write it into their living will.

Posted by nicole | July 28, 2008 2:05 PM

Reading the second half of this brought tears to my eyes. I watched something like this happen to my mother, who had cancer, 8 weeks ago. I also don't know what she would have decided, but I know that she had decided to forgo a second round of kemo because she prefered quality of life over length; and that I wish she would have at least been offered the option.

Posted by dbto | July 28, 2008 2:14 PM

A few years back, my mother was diagnosed with a vicious strain of leukemia. The doctors told her that without any treatment, she would die within the week. With basic medical care, she would last a few months, half a year at most. The last option was that she could choose to fight it, take every treatment they offered, and hope that they worked.

My mom chose to fight it, and she was lucky. She's set against this initiative because, in her words, she "fought too hard to live."

She doesn't understand why that's exactly why I support this initiative. It was her choice to fight it. If she had wanted to choose not to fight it, she should have had that right too. Fighting was the right choice for her, but it might not have been the right choice for someone else in that same situation.

Posted by Me | July 28, 2008 2:14 PM

A close relative died from lung cancer after declining treatment. He collapsed into bed on a Saturday. His adult children gave him all the liquid narcotic he cared to consume, far more than the prescription called for. He died at peace on Tuesday.

His children believe his inevitable death might have been advanced by a few hours or at most a few days, but the fact remains he died of lung cancer and nothing else. Not assisted suicide, and certainly not homicide.

What families do in end-of-life situations is their own business and not the state's.

Posted by Constant Voter | July 28, 2008 2:15 PM

Again Dan, my deepest sympathy about your mother.

And in regards to this, I do believe that as more and more baby-boomers die off these laws will gain traction. As it stands, there just aren't enough people dealing with these decisions, or seeing the consequence on a day-to-day basis.

But now is going to be the start of a time when a large section of the population starts dying off and their loved ones (and friends) will have to deal with it. So give it another 10 years, and I imagine there will be no problem passing this type of legislation. Sad as that is.

Posted by Original Monique | July 28, 2008 2:18 PM

Wow. I can't imagine how hard that was for you. I'm so sorry for your pain. When I had part of an internship as a hospice chaplain I often found myself with people and their families in end of life circumstances, wondering if there weren't a more humane way to die. For what it's worth, I think given the choices before you at the time, your mom and your family were very blessed to have you step up and articulate for her what her options were, and to give her permission and peace in choosing. It's hard to get those memories of the last moments out of your mind too. I hope writing this was a step of a kind of exorcism for you, so in time the memory - not softens - but maybe doesn't wound so much. Peace to you.

Posted by dawicksta | July 28, 2008 2:19 PM

Dan, thank you for this.

Your central point cannot be over-emphasized: it's the dying person who must make that decision for themself, with the love and support of their family. Any time that the church, the legislature, or society tries to make rules, they will be, of necessity, blunt instruments -- with no way to evaluate the needs of the individual.

I, too, have watched parents die -- my dad died of pulmonary fibrosis in 2004, and my mother, of thymus cancer in 2006. They were both lucky enough to get outstanding medical care, and to be surrounded by family and friends who were willing and able to make their deaths as comfortable as possible.

I doubt that either of them would have used the assisted-suicide option, but I'm sure that they would have taken great comfort in its being available.

A society is made up of individuals, and a society is only as successful as how well it treats each its individual members.

Posted by Charlie | July 28, 2008 2:20 PM

Amen, Dan. Thank you for this - must have been hard to write. And God bless you and your family. Or whichever deity/non-deity you choose.

Posted by D Huygens | July 28, 2008 2:20 PM

Fuck religion.

Posted by AMB | July 28, 2008 2:22 PM

Thanks for sharing your personal story and opinion, Dan. Actually, "thanks" seems rather inadequate in comparison. I haven't had this experience with my parents yet, but when my godmother died of cancer she spent the last week or so completely sedated; her pain was so intense that nothing else, not even morphine, helped. She should at least have had the choice to decide if that was how she wanted to spend her last days.

Connelly can have his own opinion, but when he implies that Booth Gardner is some kind of puppet for an out of state political organization he crosses the line. I have been hearing for years that this was something Mr. Gardner wanted to work on - he didn't just sign up yesterday to be the poster boy. But I already think Joel Connelly is a turd.

Posted by asteria | July 28, 2008 2:26 PM

Connelly's pretty much on life support himself, isn't he?

Posted by Fnarf | July 28, 2008 2:34 PM

Dan, you're absolutely right.

Neither Joel Connelly, nor the church, nor the government should tell people what to do at the end of their lives. Death with dignity should be an option in Washington - that's why I'm voting YES on I-1000.

Posted by Gloria | July 28, 2008 2:52 PM

My sympathies, Dan.

A few years ago, my dad, who lives in Oregon, sent the papers up that I had to sign in front of a Notary Public indicating that I understood their assisted-suicide law and that I would not interfere with his decision, which I most certainly won't.

I don't want to be too glib in dismissing the concerns of those who worry that assisted suicide laws could be abused down the road, because I suppose that possibility does exist, but Connelly's faith-based and particularly nasty arguments against I-1000 do a real disservice to people who have reservations about the proposal (which, by the way, I'm looking forward to voting in favor of).

Mr. Connelly, keep your medieval church out of my bedroom AND my hospital room, thanks.

Posted by Mr. X | July 28, 2008 2:52 PM

Can't wait to vote for this.

Posted by Nick | July 28, 2008 3:02 PM

Thank you for writing this.

Posted by litlnemo | July 28, 2008 3:25 PM

@14 for the win.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 28, 2008 3:35 PM

Launching pad? Oregon has physician assisted suicide. I'm no historian but I think we had to vote for it twice and tell the feds to mind their own disgusting war/killing/arrogant business. Did I say suicide? I mean Death With Dignity. 292 have done it from 1998 to 2006.

Posted by Savier Couch | July 28, 2008 3:42 PM

I think we treat animals more humanely than we do humans when it comes to this topic.

Posted by Joy | July 28, 2008 3:47 PM

1)that was very moving.
2)if everyone in this country was required to spend 1 week of their lives doing each of the following:
a)work as a tipped employee
b)volunteer in a hospice
c)subsist on a fixed income

then, we MIGHT actually aspire to being the greatest nation in the world...

Posted by michael strangeways | July 28, 2008 3:57 PM

I've seen many, many people die, and one thing I can tell you is this: you know that whole thing the "pro-life" people tell you? You know, that with adequate pain control you can make a death peaceful and dignified? That you don't have to choose suicide as an option to escape pain?

There's a significant amount of bullshit involved. Nurses and doctors are terrified of the one crazy aunt or weird politician who shows up and insists "you *killed* her!" So,they always low-ball the analgesia. That way, no one can argue that the patient died immediately after the medication was given, so of course they couldn't have killed the patient.

When it comes to choosing between making a stranger's last minutes completely pain free and risking your livelihood, your freedom, and everything you and your family made so many sacrifices for...people don't choose the stranger. So they suffer, or live in that inarticulate twilight of suffering where they aren't exactly screaming but they sure don't look like they are 'at peace.' And eventually,they die.

As much as that sucks, I think it's also unfair to ask anyone to choose between those two options.

The old "my body, my life, my choice" mantra is fine, but once you add "your license" you are in a whole other territory. Until the government de-criminalizes medical suicide, I suggest you make a trip to Mexico and pick up the necessary prescriptions to do it yourself.

And Dan, I hate to kick you when you're down, but you've got a fair amount of nerve taking umbrage at the "crime" label that Connelly threw out there. I believe it was you who referred to an entire transplant team as "murderers" and listed their contact information online when they declined to give a transplant to patient who had a strong drug abuse history and wouldn't give up marijuana. We all jump to negative conclusions when it suits our particular cherished indignations.

(Marijuana is fairly safe in hep c patients,but much more dangerous in transplant patients because their immune systems are taken off-line for the transplant.)

Posted by Yeek | July 28, 2008 3:59 PM

The option - even the possibility of the option - does not exist in VA.

I have Multiple Sclerosis. A chronic, debilitating and progressive disease. (For many - it's much less serious than it is for me.) I don't want to die. I want to LIVE. But when life is too painful, I also want the option to end it.

For a few years now, I've hoarded the drugs that will accomplish that. I'm not looking forward to using them, but I definitely don't feel that anyone has the right to deny my wishes when I decide the time is right.

I don't like the idea of dying alone... I hope your I-1000 passes.

Posted by Ayden | July 28, 2008 4:22 PM

You don't have a right to die anymore than I have a right to an aircraft carrier.

Posted by lol | July 28, 2008 4:35 PM

The only "crime" here is the modern day eugenicists aiming to turn Washington state into a concentration camp for the elderly, complete with ovens and gas chambers.

Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer, Ein-1000

Posted by ru shur | July 28, 2008 4:37 PM

Where are all these right wing nutjobs coming from on the Slog?

Or is this just the time of year the 2009 models come out?

Posted by michael strangeways | July 28, 2008 4:42 PM

@31: Because a patient hopped on painkillers is in a better position to make decisions about their life than a doctor who knows what they're actually talking about.

Posted by lol | July 28, 2008 4:42 PM

Decisions like this shouldn't be left to women, they should be left to men of God.

Posted by holy one | July 28, 2008 4:44 PM

@ 27: "You don't have a right to live anymore than I have a right to an aircraft carrier."

My changes.

Asserting something certainly doesn't make it the truth.

Posted by Yeek | July 28, 2008 4:44 PM

Sadly, @25 is correct. I've seen many people die too, and it ain't pretty, that's for sure.

The right-wing nutjobs are cause it's summer and the Ron Paulites are bored cause they're not in school being assholes.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 28, 2008 4:45 PM

If by right-wing, you mean right hand of God, then yes, I am. Life and death are not matters for mortal man to concern himself with.

Posted by holy one | July 28, 2008 4:47 PM

Well, shit. It's no fun trolling when actual whackjobs are showing up to ruin the fun.

Posted by ru shur | July 28, 2008 4:48 PM

My Mom died at home, in her bed, with us watching over her. I had hospice nurses coming over every other day, or whenever I needed them. I kept thinking " I wouldn't put my dog through this"
My Mom was waiting to die. She wanted to know that my sister had had her baby. I finally got to tell her that her grandaughter was 8 pounds and healthy.

The nurse took me aside and said "stop feeding her, you are not prolonging her life, your preventing her death" They weren't telling me to starve her to death, they were saying, she was so close to death, it really was holding her back..
I fed her strips of steak and some shrimp. She opened one eye and asked if we had any horseradish...
When it was time, and she said she was in pain, in came the morphine machine. The nurse hooked my Mom up, and pressed the button, explaining that it would dispense on it's own, but if I felt like she was in pain, to press it anytime, it was only going to dispense a certain amount in an hour anyway. The way the Nurse looked at me...PRESS IT! her face said....And then she left the house.
I had an Honest to God epiphany that early morning. I mean a jaw dropping, sky opening, angels singing epiphany. That there is a reason we go when we go, that life and all it's blood flowing, brain moving, arms, eyes and legs working miracle, is not to be taken away by anyone else.
That epiphany lasted about a half hour, until I heard my Mom make uncomfortable noises. I pressed to button. And again.
She was gone in 3 hours, and I wish it could have been sooner. We should have a law that protects doctors and nurses in aiding a patient to die with dignity.

Posted by Gato22 | July 28, 2008 4:49 PM

We must take serious the word of God.

Just as you were delivered from the womb, so will you be delivered from sin If you oppose this ungodly measure.

Posted by holy one | July 28, 2008 4:52 PM

I realize that #28 is just a troll... but it's important to point out for others reading this post that the Initiative wouldn't allow just anyone to decide to choose Assisted Suicide, and shouldn't lead to families taking advantage of anyone.

PLEASE READ initiatives before you sign or before you vote.

1) It can only be initiated by the patient.

2) One of the two witnesses to the request must not be related, and must not be entitled to any portion of the patient's estate

3) The request must be supported by the attending physician and a consulting physician.

4) The request must be made a second time, and after a waiting period.

Posted by Mickymse | July 28, 2008 5:00 PM

"I also know that, if my mother needed my help, I would’ve held a glass of water to her lips, so that she could swallow the pills that would’ve spared her those two hours of agony."

But would you have given her the pills? Would you have injected her with enough pain-killers to end her life? My Dad died of stomach cancer and the last few days weren't pretty, but I often ask myself one question: if he had asked me to, could I have spared my father by ending his life? Tough questions with no easy, glib answers.

Posted by madscntst | July 28, 2008 5:08 PM

I would have. I would have obtained the pills for her too, illegally, if she had asked me to.

Posted by Dan Savage | July 28, 2008 5:13 PM

Don't take the blue pill.

That would be bad.

Posted by Take the Red Pill | July 28, 2008 5:23 PM

My dog died of cancer. We took her to the vet who took x-rays. She referred us to a specialist (yes, they have them for pets, too.) The specialist performed more tests. He told us that our dog had cancer. He told us what our options (surgery, biopsies, chemo) were but the prognosis (death) wouldn't change, just prolong the pain for a week or two, if not actually make the pain worse. We had to decid if we wanter to keep her alive (in pain) for us, or we should put her to sleep. We decided on euthanasia. He brought her into us and let us say goodbye, he gave her a painkiller and a sedative, and then, while we were holding her, she went to sleep and never woke up again.

My uncle died of cancer. He was referred to many specialists. A surgeon cut out as much of the cancer he could, but it had metastisized so it was immpossible to take it all at one time so my uncle was cut up again and again. Afterwards a nurse pumped my uncle full of poisonous chemicals that burned like battery acid again and again for weeks and months. Another doctor put a stent into my doctor (google it) so other meds could be pumped into him. A pain specialist gave him morphine, but only so much. The doctor didn't want to accidentally kill him with too much morphine, so the pain never really went away. Morphine just takes the edge off, for awhile. My uncle got skinnier and skinnier because he had difficulty swallowing. So another doctor stuck more tubes in him so he could get liquid nutrition through a tube along with an I.V. for fluids. Eventually he died. And we thought "At last. Thank God."

Take your religion and get the fuck out of my life AND my death.

Posted by yucca flower | July 28, 2008 5:24 PM

Dan, my heart goes out to you.

My mother "died" before the Karen Ann Quinlin case - that is, she had a massive stroke and her brain was dead, but her body didn't die, at least not right away.

For 6 months I watched my mother deteriorate - literally rot - while the doctors spent over a million dollars to keep her "alive". My mother had been quite clear that she never wanted to die like that, but it didn't matter. If the doctors didn't do everything they could for her, they could have been charged with murder. Only mother was already dead!

When her lungs failed they put her on a respirator. When her kidneys failed she got dialysis. When she spiked terrible fevers [even her brain stem was dead], they cooled her and when her temperature dropped they kept her warm. Her skin turned black when her liver stopped working - not merely bruised, but a rotting, peeling black and still they wouldn't let her die. Frankly, I wanted the doctors charged with abuse of a corpse!

She used to have nightmares about being buried alive - I wonder if she felt that way at the end. So 'Holy One' should understand that when God wants someone dead, no miracle of medicine is going to save them. Why are supposedly religious people are so terrified of death, anyway? What if my mother's soul was trapped in her body - and denied Heaven for 6 months in Hell?

If someone is going to die, they should be made as comfortable as possible, even if it means hastening their death. It's the Christian thing to do.

Posted by Schweighsr | July 28, 2008 5:32 PM

Thank you for sharing this story. It is very compelling and should be shared with anyone who claims to support Joel's position. But, frankly, a compelling story should not be needed. Control of one's own body and life is a matter of principle.

Posted by DC | July 28, 2008 5:37 PM

Thank you, Dan. I will, of course, vote yes. I hope your story will convince others to vote the same.

Posted by lotus | July 28, 2008 6:02 PM

I think @10 is correct. As baby boomers age, things will change. We want dying to be painless? Can our generation not tolerate anything? We want to live forever, at any cost, until we don't anymore, then we want to die, immediately, without pain, probably sitting on a beach somewhere with a great view that has as few tourists as possible. Nothing but the best for the pampered generation.

I don't mean to be glib, but dying ain't pretty. Watching those you love die, with or without pain, ain't pretty. It's suppose to hurt. It's suppose to leave you in a heap on the floor. When it no longer does, we are all in trouble.

Truly sorry for your loss, Dan.

Posted by jh | July 28, 2008 6:14 PM

Thank you for this, Dan. My father is likely facing a similar no-win situation in the near future, in his case a brain tumor. This is uncharted territory for us, and your story adds needed perspective.

Posted by A mid-Atlantic | July 28, 2008 6:29 PM

This is an extraordinarily difficult issue, but I currently plan to oppose I-1000. While I understand the desire for individual autonomy, I strongly doubt that a decision about ending life can ever be made freely. My father-in-law recently pass away after struggling for two years with a terminal illness. He regularly worried about being a financial and personal burden on his family as his health slowly deteriorated (along with family finances). If society sanctioned suicide, would he have felt it his obligation to end his life early? I hope not, but I'm not so sure. We were certainly happy that he was able to meet his baby granddaughter.

I don't view this as a religious issue. I'm a non-believer. I don't oppose I-1000 because of any God but because I am concerned that it is bad public policy.

Posted by Bob | July 28, 2008 6:55 PM

Sorry about your loss.

Aren't you glad that you're in the position to write your perspective on this painful issue rather than having some sophomoric jackass writer from The Stranger mocking your grief and feelings?

Think about it next time you or your staff mock genuine feelings, sincerely held.

Here's hoping with time your impose some sort of decency on your gang of jackals.

Posted by Editor's note | July 28, 2008 7:00 PM

Dan, as much as I think you are a prick, you need to understand something about Mr. Connelly.

The man is a raging alcoholic. Rumour has it that he consumes nearly a fifth of stoli's everyday (starting upon waking up). If you see him before his first drink of the day, he has the shakes so bad that he can't hold a cup of coffee to his lips.

A sick alcoholic such as Connelly shouldn't be taken seriously whatsoever.

And yes, this is true.

Posted by ecce homo | July 28, 2008 7:15 PM

prove it, homo.

Posted by scary tyler moore | July 28, 2008 7:44 PM

Oh, Dan. The story of your mother's passing is truly horrific My mother had slipped into a coma by the time I knew she was dying (at the age of 50) and got to the hospital to say goodbye, but it wasn't a pleasant death. There was much labored breathing with eyes open as her body kept going even though cancer had ravaged her. Nightmarish. And, 12 years later, it still haunts me. Should my mom have had the option? I tend to think yes.


Posted by Balt-O-Matt | July 28, 2008 7:55 PM

I am currently watching my mother die from A.L.S. I know she wouldn't consider ending her life. She believes only God can make that decision.

But watching her, watching her pain, watching the pain of myself and my family, if I ever have A.L.S., I will certainly consider it. I neither want the struggle, nor do I think the pain for my family is worth a few extra weeks. (And no, I don't resent any problems her decision causes the rest of the family.) I don't wish she would die. I wish she would die the way she wants to.

Posted by King Rat | July 28, 2008 7:56 PM

"As baby boomers age, things will change. We want dying to be painless? Can our generation not tolerate anything? We want to live forever, at any cost, until we don't anymore, then we want to die, immediately, without pain, probably sitting on a beach somewhere with a great view that has as few tourists as possible. Nothing but the best for the pampered generation".

First of all, the baby boomers are hardly the most 'pampered generation.'

What in the hell is wrong with a quick painless death? What do you wish for? A long, painful death by yourself? A death w/o pain constitutes, 'nothing but the best?' Thats sick and twisted.

I can't holy one being sarcastic? Or did Jerry Fallwell come back to haunt us?

Posted by Joy | July 28, 2008 7:59 PM

@28 - Godwin's Law. You lose.

Add me to the chorus of Oregonians (Humpy represent!) who say that Connelly and the Christofascists who want terminally ill people to suffer in pain the remainder of their lives are grossly overstating the risks of physician-assisted suicide.

They're also the people who refused to let women have anesthesia during childbirth because the Bible said women were to "give birth in pain".

Posted by Aaron V. | July 28, 2008 8:04 PM

This will be written as hypothetically as possible. For those who find themselves in a situation with a morphine machine such as referred to @36, it may be possible to bridge and short the connection between two electrical contacts on the box. perhaps they are the buttons, perhaps they are the power. Anyway, when the machine is shorted, it might reset itself, eliminating the memory of the previous dosage for the hour,and thereby allowing possible additional dosage(s).

Posted by anon | July 28, 2008 8:11 PM

I'm so sorry, Dan.

Posted by korinthia Klein | July 28, 2008 8:54 PM

Having you stand up and be counted for I-1000 made my day.

Dan I am sorry for your loss but I am glad that you are willing to come forward in this important movement for choice and be a voice of reason amid Connelly's repeated columns against. He speaks for the Pope but look into the John Paul's last days and you'll see his intimates didn't practice what he preached.

Dan you rock and I hope you'll continue to speak out on this important issue.

P.S. and no I'm not one of those aging white guys from out of state the opposition says are doing all the funding...

Posted by gray haired in a city of dyed hair | July 28, 2008 11:25 PM

wow, that was very moving to read. thanks for that emotional testimony, dan.

Posted by raisedbywolves | July 29, 2008 2:03 AM

Dan, thank you for sharing your story.

My beautiful mom died of cancer in January, and we were lucky enough to have Hospice at home (in Oregon no less).

The family was given massive amounts of morphine in patch and liquid form, as well as liquid benzos. Each time mom struggled with her pain or panic (her lungs were filling as well), we dosed her.

I often wonder if we hastened her death with those drugs - given so freely by the angels at hospice. If so,I'm glad I could spare my mom some pain, and ease her death. Her final breaths were peaceful, and she died with a smile on her face.

God I miss her.

Posted by Christina | July 29, 2008 3:53 AM


My deepest condolences on the death of your mother.

Anyone who thinks that assisted suicide for the terminally ill is immoral or too great a burden to place on doctors, should work nights in hospitals as I did many years ago while I was putting myself through college. I listened to terminal patients moan, cry and scream all night long, every night until they died, because their doctors refused to provide sufficient pain medication to keep them comfortable, even though there was no question as to their prognoses. It did not matter how much the patients and their families begged and pleaded.

Over the years, Hospice, a wonderful organization, has gotten steadily better at providing end of life pain care for dying people, provided that they and/or their families know that Hospice exists.

However, for people like your mother, who are hospitalized and will die of suffocation or other conditions, Hospice cannot help much even, though they, like the doctors, know exactly what to do.

Sometimes, people in the disabled community advance the "slippery slope" argument to oppose physician assisted suicide. The rationale goes something like, "If they kill the dying, next they will kill the sick and then they will start killing us."
This is just not true. I, myself, am both disabled and have been a disability advocate for many years, so I know more than most about this topic.

Of course the religious nutjobs also keep constant pressure on doctors, patients and families to prevent assisted suicide because of their own personal, stupid view that, "It is up to God and God alone to decide when and how a life ends. It may look like suffering to people, but we cannot know God's plan and God never gives anyone more than they can handle." Predictably, they spend great amounts of money and effort interferring with the rights of those who do not share their beliefs.

Your mother was conscious and aware of her prognosis. It should have been her choice as to how her life would end.

It should be everyone's choice.

Posted by Terry Bank | July 29, 2008 9:11 AM

Dan, thank you for sharing this. You make the most eloquent and heartfelt argument for I-1000 that I've seen yet. Peace to you and yours.

Posted by Sky Bluesky | July 29, 2008 9:51 AM

My girlfriend died of cystic fibrosis in October of 2005. She was in Bailey-Boushay House for her last several months. Her final weeks were spent doped up on morphine and using the same sort of BiPap that Dan's mother probably used. When it came to her last day she was a shell, not really conscious, breathing shallowly. The nurse increased the dosage on the morphine drip, and we pressed the button for her. Another hour later she was still struggling, and so we pressed it agian

Posted by NaFun | July 29, 2008 10:12 AM

I just want to say that I'm sorry for your loss and I'm sorry your family had to live with the pain of those last 2 hours. Whether or not your mother was in pain, everyone else in the room, in your family was. I suspect that it was painful for the doctors and nurses to have to stand by, not really knowing if the morphine was helping or not, being able to do nothing more for your mother or your family.

Posted by Ami | July 29, 2008 12:42 PM

that sounds a lot like how my grandmother died and it was fucking horrible. i'm so sorry, dan.

Posted by shena lee | July 29, 2008 1:01 PM

Please check out Compassion & Choices at
They provide counseling and advocacy for terminally ill people wishing to hasten their death. C&C also provides free Living Wills (ie. "Don't keep me on a feeding tube if my brain is dead" papers)- which everyone, of any age should have just in case. Thank you for sharing your story Dan-- this is a civil liberties issue!

Posted by knotless | July 29, 2008 3:21 PM

Thank you for sharing your story, Dan.

Posted by Yoshi | July 30, 2008 1:19 AM

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