Some Case Histories of Compassion & Choices' Clients:
The Story of Sandy Bush
Sandy Bush reveled in the freedom of retirement, RVing cross-country with his wife and childhood sweetheart Joann. After receiving a diagnosis of aggressive, untreatable prostate cancer, Sandy was paralyzed by fear of a prolonged, painful death. Searching for a way to prepare for the worst, Sandy discovered Compassion & Choices.
Armed with a plan to escape unbearable suffering, Sandy felt free to reconnect with the life that he loved. "I now have the knowledge that I don't have to suffer, and that information was enough to give me a new life. I simply needed to know that I could have control over my life," Sandy said.
More than 20 months after his terminal diagnosis, Sandy died peacefully at home, surrounded by family and the mountains that he loved. His journey from fear to hope reveals how the dignity of choice enhances the will to live.
The Story of the Sutherland Family
Margaret Haas Sutherland bravely chose to access Oregon's Death with Dignity Act after exhausting all treatment options for her breast cancer. She had lost control of her bodily functions. Tumors growing in her airways left her breathless and coughing up blood.
On a morning of her choosing, she kissed and hugged her loved ones goodbye, drank the medication and died peacefully. Julie McMurchie honored her mother's independent spirit by standing at her side. "I feel that my family was give a gift that morning," Julie said. "May we all be so lucky to die surrounded by those we love most in the world."
Julie understands the urgency to fight for legal reform in statehouses, in Congress and in the courts. She vigorously defended Oregon's law at the National Press Club when the U.S. Supreme Court heard the Gonzales v. Oregon case. Sharing stories like the Sutherland's changes hearts, minds and votes one at a time.
The Story of Karl Bernstein
Seventy-six year-old Karl Bernstein lies in a hospital bed in California attached to a network of tubes and monitors. Karl hasn't communicated in four years and has no advance directive to speak for him. His wife Olga would like hime made comfortable until death naturally comes. Scot, his oldest son, wants doctors to do everything possible to keep him alive, and won a legal battle to be named his health care decision-maker.
This painful family drama could have been avoided if Karl had solidified his end-of-life wishes through an advance directive. Yet even after the Terri Schiavo debacle captivated the nation, only 30 percent of Americans have documented their health care wishes in writing. When an anguished Olga contacted Compassion & Choices, we helped her go public with her story in the Los Angeles Times. Olga believes that sharing her family's tragedy will prompt others to make the preparations she and Karl did not.
People over the age of 85 years are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, which means that there is clearly an urgent need for people to plan for end-of-life health care. Compassion & Choices stands poised to meet the growing need for client support services, advocacy work and educational outreach.