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Profiles of Courage

Declarations of Support for Oregon's Assisted-Dying Law

Fall 2005

Profiles of Courage
Pictured Left to Right: Lovelle Svart, Don James, Richard Holmes, Allison Willeford, M.D. and Roger Watanabe
"I do not want my partner to have to watch me die a lingering protracted death marked by progressive loss of bodily function and integrity, increasing pain and other intensely distressing symptoms. It is important to my values and beliefs to be able to exercise this choice."

-- Martin Weiss, suffered from esophageal cancer

"My decision to take the lethal dose of medication I presently possess is a very personal and important decision for me, it is based on my most deeply held values and beliefs. I believe everyone should have the right to make it when and if they become eligible to use Oregon's law."

-- Richard Holmes, suffered from colon cancer

"I will have no humane options if and when my dying process becomes unbearable to me. I will be subjected to extreme physical and emotional suffering that I would not have to endure if I am allowed to control the timing and manner of my death."

-- William Gilbertson, suffered from carcinoid and prostate cancer

"Emphysema is a disease that usually ends in death by suffocation. I do not wish to wait in fear for this type of terrifying death."

-- Melissa Bush, suffered from emphysema

"I am in a great deal of non-physical agony, due to my inability to eat, speak properly and to perform my normal bodily functions. I wish to have the option to end my life in a humane and dignified manner."

-- Karl Stansell, suffered from throat cancer

"I am a Christian and believe that my God understands my decision and would not want me to endure the pain and suffering that my illness will cause me in my final days."

-- Jane Doe #1, suffered from pancreatic cancer

"I have notified my family of my decision and they support me in my wish for a dignified death."

-- Jane Doe #2, suffered from emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

"I will get to the point in my life when my body will no longer function, but I will remain mentally alert. This will cause me great anguish and suffering because I will be able to maintain my mental faculties, but will not be able to perform normal bodily functions."

-- James Romney, suffered from Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS)

"Having the legal right to choose to hasten my death if my suffering becomes severe has given me great peace of mind. A dignified and peaceful death does not seem too much to ask. The alternative for someone with ALS is terrible."

-- John Doe #1, living with Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS)

Since the beginning of the Oregon court case in 2001, 16 patients have intervened on the side of Oregon. Five of these people have filed petitions with the court that will be heard this fall. Join us in thanking these individuals for their strength and their unwavering support of the Oregon law.

Charlene Andrews
Melissa Bush*
Jane Doe #1*
Jane Doe #2*
John Doe #1
William Gilbertson*
Cheryl Jeanne Gunning*
Richard Holmes*
Don James
James Romney*
Karl Stansell*
Lovelle Svart
Roger Watanabe*
Martin Weiss*
Allison Willeford, M.D.*
Arthur Wilson

* Deceased

"When I reach the point that my pain and symptoms are unbearable to me, I want to be able to hasten my impending death in a humane and dignified manner, in my home, in my bed, surrounded by my loved ones with whom I will be able to say a final goodbye."

-- Don James, living with prostate cancer

"I do not know if I will choose to use the law and take life-ending medication, but I do know I want the right to do so, as the law allows."

-- Charlene Andrews, living with breast cancer

"I have a lot of pain with this illness and take large amounts of a narcotic -- morphine. The pain is likely to get worse and I will have to choose between a clear state of mind or taking increasing doses of the narcotic to control the pain. This choice is unacceptable to me."

-- Roger Watanabe, suffered from colon cancer

"If I am not able to access my right to die with dignity under Oregon law because physicians fear such prosecution, my rights under the Oregon law will be taken away from me permanently without any recourse. I will be forced to endure the ravages of end stage terminal ovarian cancer and experience pain and suffering that I wish to avoid."

-- Jeanne Gunning, suffered from ovarian cancer

"I can't bear the thought of fighting for every breath, or waking in panic when I'm unable to get air to my lungs."

-- Lovelle Svart, living with lung cancer

"It is very important to me that I have the right to have this option when I believe it is necessary because I am fiercely independent and wish to control my destiny, including over how and when I cross the threshold to death. I am a devout Christian and believe God would agree with my decision. In fact I believe it is my God-given right to make this decision."

-- Allison Willeford, MD, suffered from kidney cancer

"I want to tell my friends and loved ones that I love them and say "Goodbye" on my terms and in my time. I do not want to be in a drugged-dazed state or die gasping painfully for breath."

-- Arthur Wilson, living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Family Members

Individual patients aren't the only ones affected by Oregon's assisted dying law, or by the threats against it. The statements below are published in the Survivors' Brief filed with the court. All the briefs are available online at

The Oregon Death with Dignity Act (ODWDA) relieves severe and prolonged suffering of some dying patients who would prefer death:

"It is possible to endure a great deal of pain and discomfort if one feels there is a purpose in doing so -- that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. But when Norma learned from her oncologist early in July 2001 that she had at most a few more weeks left to live, she decided she would prefer death on her own terms to a continuing, futile struggle ending in helplessness and misery."

-- Alvin Davis, about his wife

Profiles of Courage
Jim Romney (seated) with Oregon Senator Ron Wyden
The ODWDA promotes public safety and order by averting violent, ghastly, and often unsuccessful efforts to hasten impending death by patients who previously could not make use of the ODWDA:

"If physician-assisted dying had been available to my father, as it is to the people of Oregon, I have no doubt that he would have chosen a less violent and lonely death. My mother could have been brought around to accepting his decisions, death could have been peaceful, and his family could have been with him."

-- Marcia Angell, M.D.

The ODWDA provides safeguards that ensure a decision to hasten death is made knowingly, voluntarily and with proper medical advice and assistance after due consideration:

"She went through an extensive screening process over a two-week period which involved her having three sessions with her primary doctor, an interview with the chief of ethics of our HMO, and the review by a second doctor outside the HMO. There was no doubt from anyone that she was competent and not depressed. Her treatment options were discussed and reviewed with her over and over again. She was given assistance with hospice care and pain management. We were encouraged to share her decision with our family members, which we did. We also took time to discuss her desires with her clergy person. After each meeting and discussion Colleen's resolve to hasten her death strengthened."

-- Scott Rice, about his wife

The ODWDA advances the public interest in protecting families by relieving family members of the pressure to assist their loved ones to hasten death illegally:

"I am proud to have supported my mother in the final deliberate act she had in her life ... Oregon's law gave my family and me something special and it allowed my mother to die with dignity and grace."

-- Julie McMurchie

The ODWDA protects the dignity, privacy, and autonomy of patients:

"He often told me that he found great comfort going through the process of obtaining the medication. He said it was very useful and gave him ease of mind. It always gave his family, in particular me, time with him that I might not otherwise have had."

-- Sue Parks Hilden, about her father

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This article was provided by Compassion & Choices. It is a part of the publication Compassion & Choices Magazine.