Editor’s note. This appeared at alexschadenberg.blogspot.com.
My name is Jeanette Hall and I live in the state of Oregon, USA, where assisted suicide is legal. Our law was enacted via a ballot initiative that I voted for.
The reason I had been in favor of assisted suicide when our law went into effect was that I had no previous health issues, loved ones and friends were there to encourage me, and I used my favorite aunt as my reason why assisted suicide should be legal. My Aunt had been a strong woman, a lawyer, and I watched her die, a slow death with her cancer. As I look back now, what I really was seeing was her appearance as she slumped in her hospital bed with no hair and looking so sick. My thought then was no one will do that to me and I will end my life before it comes to that. That was my reasoning, at the time, when our law went into effect.
Then, on July 17, 2000, I was rushed by ambulance to the emergency room of Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland, Oregon, with excessive blood loss. I had been seeing a doctor (OHSU colon doctor) and my appointment to see him was at the exact time I was admitted to the ER. The doctors and nurses were trying to stabilize me when the my doctor entered the room and prepared to tell me that the biopsy came back (squamous cell carcinoma) and that I had colon cancer. I was soon to learn that it was inoperable and the only way to survive this type of cancer was with chemotherapy and radiation and without it, I was given a year or less to live.
Life as I knew it seemed to end that week for me (in and out of ICU with a tube down my throat) fear of losing my job, not being able to care for my mother with dementia, hospital bills, and fearing I would end up just like my aunt. My hope turned into despair, and I prepared to die before the suffering got worse, since I was determined not to have chemo or radiation.
But, then entered Dr. Kenneth Stevens (OHSU radiation doctor), who did not believe in physician-assisted suicide. I thank all the Dr. Stevens of the world, who are there for you to give you hope when yours is gone. He battled me to think of living instead of dying and brought me back to reality with the question, “Don’t you want to see your son get married?” He did not know that at that given time, I thought I would only become a burden to my son and my thought was that he would be o.k. without seeing me suffer.
I am so grateful that Dr. Stevens worked with me and helped me change my mind to fight. If he believed in physician-assisted suicide, I would not be here 13 years later to thank him, I would be dead. I would not have been able to hold my mother’s hand at the end (as the death certificate read) with Alzheimer’s.
Everyone needs a Dr. Stevens along the way. He was there again for me two years ago in ER at OHSU when I suffered some seizures and could not talk or swallow. It’s great to be alive to have one more day and be able to encourage others to not give up when there seems to be no hope when given a terminal illness.
I say “NO” to assisted suicide. Thank you.
King City Oregon