In November 1997, Oregon became the first state to pass a Death with Dignity Act. Popular support for the measure grew out of the strong libertarian tradition that has been part of Oregon since it became a state in 1859. Opposition to the bill was seen as “coming from organized groups, out of state,” which was perceived as a negative.
Subsequently, a neuropsychological evaluation, an MRI, confirmed the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. We tried Aricept, changed primary care doctors and began experimenting with various anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications. After six months we added an anti-psychotic medication to help with symptoms of agitation, anger, paranoia and delusional thinking.
Her Alzheimer's has now progressed to the moderate stage; she is otherwise healthy. She has mentioned ending her life by refusing to eat or drink. However, she does not sustain that thought nor do I think she is she is capable of acting on it.
I hope by the time I am at her age and stage of life, I have more legal choices than she does now and the statute is broadened. To some this is a dreaded slippery slope. To me, it would be a relief.
This year, Chancellor Collins’ assistant asked Emily if he could read her thank you note at the close of this year’s white coat ceremony. This is an excerpt from his speech.
Kathy Kaditz is a founding member of Community Voices in Medical Ethics and the Community Ethics Committee.