Eric Shulzke interviews me about dementia and assisted death in a Deseret News article about the status of Utah’s end-of-life choices law
Photo credit: All photos in this post are by Scott Winterton, Deseret News.
In earlier posts and in VideoWest’s 2nd video of me and my family and how we are dealing with my growing dementia, I have lamented the fact that someone in the late stages of dementia cannot ever qualify to receive an assisted suicide under any of the current states’ right-to-die laws in the US: to be considered as a candidate for assisted death, a person must be “of sound mind,” and someone with dementia is by definition not of sound mind. The other qualification, that you must be within six months of death, is also not a criterion that can be fulfilled by most people with dementia–the date of our deaths are not as clear as that of a cancer patient, for example, even as we can no longer recognize our family or have other joys in life. I believe–and my family too–that a right-to-die law should respect the Advance Directives or other legal document in which someone with early-onset-dementia states that she is of sound mind and lays out criteria for what she considers a worthwhile quality of life. Once she reaches those criteria, as determined by her family, there is no reason that her earlier declaration should not be counted as a clear statement of her wishes. Such are some of the issues surrounding Utah’s and other US states’ attempts to pass right-to-die laws.
In the article to which I give the link below, Erik Shulzke discusses some of the complexities surrounding current debates about the law. Given the number of photos he has included of me and Peter, I think we are the article’s “poster children”: the question is what we represent: people who have deeply thought about these issues or two misguided souls who don’t value life.? I feel that Eric represented my position fairly and sympathetically–thanks so much, Erik! What do you, my friends/followers think?
Why one Utah woman is planning to end her life on her own terms
January 19, 2017 @ 8:58 pm
I hope that, in my lifetime, our country will create a law that allows people to make that choice when they no longer have a quality of life that they’ve always had but no longer do, they can choose to die with dignity.
Thank you Greta for your insight and words.
January 19, 2017 @ 9:23 pm
Thanks again, Peggy. I hear the same thing from so many people. I read that about 70% of Utahns actually want the law, but for reasons we know only too well we’ll probably be the last state to get it! Contact with you means a lot to me. Thanks.
January 20, 2017 @ 8:56 am
I read the article and was frankly surprised at how balanced it was, given the LDS Church’s active opposition to assisted suicide. I really didn’t feel that the writer was trying to portray you and Peter as “misguided souls who don’t value life,” but it could also have been that my views colored the way I read the article.
I think the political reality in Utah will prevent passage of Rep. Chavez-Houck’s bill in the foreseeable future, but we can always hope for a Supreme Court decision a la Obergefell that overrides state narrowness in favor of a nationwide solution.
Gerda, I think you and Peter are doing a wonderful service in making your journey public! In some ways my heart breaks for the two of you, but your story is far from tragic — you present it in a way that’s complex, simple, funny, deep, thought-provoking, and engaging (just like life, I guess). Your husband and family are rallying around you in a way that really gives meaning to the often-abused phrase “family values.”
January 23, 2017 @ 8:25 am
Dear Barbara, You are so kind to write such a thoughtful response–and thanks so much for your lovely comments about Peter and me. You are such a great writer–are you or have you been a journalist? Practiced professional writing in other forms?
it. I find your comparison of the “right to die” issue with the right to (gay) marriage issue insightful, and echoing my own sense of how changes take place in the public perception of a previously taboo social practice: a change of heart/mind seems to undergo a groundswell in the general public that far outstrips the thinking of political- and other establishment representatives. (Think of the American Medical Association that is just now starting to acknowledge the conceptual similarity between “physician assisted death” and “palliative care” (along the lines Peggy Battin explained in the article), whereas (by my own anecdotal evidence, even from my own doctor…) many doctors have for many years been practicing a form of deliberately death-bound palliative care that is really indistinguishable from “palliative care.” Personally I strongly experienced the shock/surprise of a groundswell of change when South Africa abandoned apartheid within a decade after Peter and I emigrated—we thought it would never happen in our lifetime!
I really am so thrilled to be in touch with you, stellar Jessica’s stellar Mom!