Letter: Charlotte McConnell, Sterling

Editor: October is breast cancer awareness month. Oct. 15 will mark 13 years since my mother died from breast cancer.

Two weeks after we learned her cancer had spread to her liver, she was dead. I think my mother was lucky to have died so quickly. That is what she had wanted. It wasn’t lucky for me because I was on my honeymoon in Hawaii and didn’t make it back in time to say goodbye.

My mother was a nurse who spent many years working in nursing homes and served as a visiting nurse. Long before being diagnosed with cancer, she had DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) tattooed on her chest. She had strong beliefs, which we discussed when I took a Death & Dying class in 2000. She watched many people suffer for far too long before death came for them.

I also lost my father to cancer. Friday they were talking about sending him to rehab and Sunday they were talking about hospice. He died Sunday night. Once again, I didn’t get to say goodbye because I was recovering from a Cesarean section. I take comfort knowing his suffering was minimal.

My experiences with death inspired me to become a Death Doula. This is someone who supports the dying and their family at the end of life. Death will come for us all. I believe the more prepared you are for this inevitability, the better the experience can be for everyone involved.

I have been a hospice volunteer for the past year. It is difficult to witness people in pain, especially when you know death is the only possible outcome. It is hard to watch their loved ones witness this pain. They are always on edge thinking that this might be when death comes and struggling with uncertainty.

I believe Virginians who are terminally ill and mentally capable should be able to receive medical aid in dying (MAID). This option should be available so they can avoid prolonged pain and suffering. This option is available to people living in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, and Washington DC.

We need legislation enabling MAID. Del. Kay Kory requested the Joint Commission on Health Care study MAID. You can read more about it at compassionandchoices.org/virginia/ I believe that Option 2 found on slide 32 of the Medical Aid-in-Dying (MAID) Final Report is the best option for Virginia.

The Joint Commission on Health Care is accepting public comments about MAID. The comment period for MAID ends Oct. 15. Please go to  compassionandchoices.org/virginia/ to learn more and submit a comment.

If you are reading this and do not have an advance directive, please make this a priority to complete before the end of the year.

Charlotte McConnell, Sterling

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