People seeking MAID are vibrant, courageous, and thoughtful. They know who they are, define the rules of their life, and are clear on their values, including the meaning of living. My last visits with them are typically marked by a sense of clarity and peace.”
Benzi M. Kluger, MD, MS, Medical Aid in Living
JAMA Neurol. Published online August 24, 2020
We are sharing this excellent article from JAMA Neuro, recently published online, because it is a beautiful tribute from a physician to medical aid in dying (MAID). For many people there is so much mystery about the process of medical aid in dying. For some, as with any uncertainty, this can bring anxiety and fear to the table. As someone who has worked with people facing their dying for nearly ten years, I never cease to be moved at witnessing the grace, courage and honesty that people show when facing end of life decisions. The author of this piece does a beautiful job of describing not only his patient’s journey in accessing medical aid in dying, but also those of others.
I had the honor of speaking to a young woman recently who reached out to End of Life Choices California. At 35 years old, she is bravely facing a Stage IV breast cancer diagnosis for which she has been told there is no cure. She is just realizing that she not only needs to plan her life, but needs to plan her death. We discussed many things, but the one thing that I think brought her comfort was hearing about what it is like to actually die from taking a lethal dose of medication through MAID. I shared with her that through the many experiences I have had over the years of attending MAID deaths, the overarching feeling I have always observed and experienced is one of peace. When people who are already dying are given the chance to be in the driver’s seat of their experience, rather than allowing the disease to wreak havoc in their lives and the lives of their loved ones, there is a peacefulness that comes with that. Family is present, love is shared, goodbyes are heartfelt. The person dying is able to relax and be held in love as they die.
What more could any of us want, truly?
My experience with this is why I have stayed active in the field and why I helped spearhead the formation of End of Life Choices California. In the article, the physician said the referring physician “had not developed a response to requests for MAID and did not know if she would participate”. We see this all the time here. Part of our mission is to provide education to physicians and hospices in order to help eliminate this major barrier to end of life care. We can help a physician wishing to learn more about MAID by putting him/her in touch with other physicians who are experienced and willing to offer guidance and support.
We also encourage all individuals who are thinking about their end of life care and wishes to have a conversation with their primary or specialist physicians NOW. These conversations take time. Many physicians are still grappling with how to deal with a MAID request. It is important to identify a physician who will support your end of life choices, whatever they may be, prior to a time you are actually ready to act on those important decisions. Discussions about Advance Care Planning with family and physicians are helpful in this regard. You can find guidance on our website here.
California is making great progress. The 2019 California Department of Public Health’s annual data report on the use of California’s End of Life Option Act showed that 37% more physicians prescribed MAID than in the previous year. That gives us hope that we will one day be out of a job. But for now, we continue to help those who contact EOLCCA looking for support and information about end of life choices.
If you would like to support End of Life Choices California’s work, please make a donation. We are very grateful for gifts of all sizes. Thank you.