To retain the final human dignity of control over one's death.
December 11, 2015 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Dr. Peter Rasmussen: retired oncologist, hospice physician and advocate for Oregon's Death with Dignity law, was given a terminal brain cancer diagnosis in Spring 2014. The Oregon Statesman Journal followed Dr. Rasmussen's end-of-life journey in articles, photos and videos, as he grappled with the same issues he once fought for on behalf of his own patients. Harper's Magazine: When I Die.

Dr. Rasmussen also helped create the physician orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST), a form which allows patients approaching end of life to let emergency responders know whether and to what extent they wish to be resuscitated. The provisions now are in use or being developed in most states.

An editorial by him from the New York Daily News: "Should doctors ever help you die? Yes. Terminally ill patients deserve this basic control over how they end their lives."

He ended his life with dignity and on his own terms on November 3rd, 2015, using a drug prescribed legally thanks to the law he helped champion and defend. His self-penned "My Obituary, An Admittedly Self-Centered Tale" can be seen here.
posted by zarq (5 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Death with Dignity laws allow certain terminally-ill adults to voluntarily request and receive a prescription medication to hasten their death. They 'stem from the basic idea that it is the terminally ill people, not government, politicians, religious leaders or other dogmas and ideologies who should make their end-of-life decisions and how much pain and suffering they should endure.'

As of today, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont have Death with Dignity statutes; California‘s law has yet to go into effect, likely in 2016. In Montana, physician-assisted dying is legal by State Supreme Court ruling.
posted by zarq at 9:34 AM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

We will treat out pets better in most places.
posted by twidget at 9:39 AM on December 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

Sadly, a Death With Dignity ballot initiative failed by a narrow margin here in Massachusetts in 2012, but I truly hope they will make another effort to get it passed.
posted by briank at 9:59 AM on December 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thank-you for posting this. I work in the trenches of primary care not 5 miles from where Dr. Rasmussen practiced. What every patient wants to know who has a possible life-ending illness is that they will have control at the end if they need it. Actual use of the option is much less. It's grotesque that we can't offer someone this hope for their autonomy when they need to hear it most.
posted by docpops at 10:34 AM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Great line in parentheses:
"Though he still practiced medicine at night in his dreams"
posted by doctornemo at 10:44 AM on December 11, 2015

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