Having a loved one die is emotionally painful. But having a loved one endure an agonizing death and not being able to say goodbye is a horrific experience.
My family sensed something was wrong when my abuelo (grandfather) complained of a severe, debilitating pain in his upper back. Our world came to a halt when our family got the devastating news: he had rare form of cancer called multiple myeloma that was invading his body’s blood and bone marrow and it was in its final stage.
While this option may not be for everyone, I believe in a person’s right to make this choice.
My abuelo was a real fighter, and he accepted every treatment to try to beat the cancer. But after nearly two years of chemotherapy, my now frail grandfather decided to stop all medical treatments that would only extend his dying process and suffering. He was in such pain and so weak that he couldn’t even move his body for a simple change of bed sheets.
“Just let me die,” my Catholic grandfather would say. “I can’t stand this pain anymore.”
My abuelo died in a cold hospital room in 2002, connected to a tube and a machine. What hurts me most is that I couldn’t even say goodbye to him because I was too young to enter his hospital room.
Fourteen years have passed since the death of my abuelo, Heliodoro, and today, as an adult, I fully understand the need for better end-of-life care options.
Terminally ill, mentally capable adults in Colorado now have the option to voluntarily request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can self-administer to die gently, holding their loved ones hands, if their end-of-life suffering becomes unbearable. An overwhelming majority of Colorado voters agreed terminally ill Coloradans should have this option by passing the End-of-Life Options Act ballot initiative on Nov. 8 by a 30-point margin (65% vs. 35%).
Legislators statewide should recognize their constituents have spoken decisively on this issue and now is the time to support implementation of the law, not overturn it or weaken it.
It is rewarding to learn that every day, more Latinos like me support expanded end-of-life options like never before.
A few weeks ago, I read an article that shows 69% of Hispanics nationwide support medical aid in dying, according to a new online survey conducted by LifeWay Research.
And in November, when Colorado voters passed the End-of-Life Options Act on election day, both men and women, Hispanics and whites, and people with and without college degrees said they backed the proposal.
There is now a statewide bilingual campaign in Colorado to educate terminally ill Coloradans, families and medical providers about the benefits and requirements of the state’s new medical aid-in-dying law that is expected to take effect this month.
We should always provide quality end-of-life care for people who are suffering from an incurable and irreversible terminal illness and this law gives people an additional option.
People like my abuelo, who only have months, weeks or days to live, who cannot benefit from any treatment and cannot get relief from extreme suffering, should have their decisions respected and honored by their medical team and given access to the option to take medication to peacefully end their suffering.
I miss my my abuelo every day, and I choose to honor his memory by supporting access to the option for a more peaceful end to the dying process for Coloradans who are suffering in the final stages of a terminal disease.
While this option may not be for everyone, I believe in a person’s right to make this choice. It is not for me to judge others. I urge legislators to resist repealing or amending this law which would prevent this compassionate end-of-life care option from being available to dying Coloradans who are suffering in their final days.
Alejandra Hernández Portillo is a 26 year-old hotel employee who lives in Aspen.
- What No Family Should Have to Endure - February 2, 2017