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  • Writer's picture Gabrielle Elise Jimenez

Dignity Day

“Autonomy can be defined as the ability of a person to make his or her own decisions.” When someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness their autonomy, their choice, and their voice are taken from them. They did not choose for their life to be cut short, or for their body to be riddled with pain, or to lose their ability to care for themselves or do things they love, with the people they love. Everyone else makes choices for them, stepping in to make decisions on their behalf, and most of the time they become completely dependent on everyone around them.

When I first heard of Medical Aid in Dying, also referred to as Death with Dignity, and in California we call it End of Life Option Act (EOLOA), I felt a sense of relief wrapped beautifully in gratitude knowing that this option could reduce suffering for people who are dying. The name might be different in each state, but they all represent the legal right to decide to end your life by taking medications, supervised, and monitored by a doctor and a nurse. There are protocols to follow, and everyone must follow them.

I have had the honor of being present for many people who ingested these medications, and who were allowed to die on their terms, ending their pain and suffering, and being able to find their autonomy, choice, and voice.

I have one woman I am supporting right now, who is getting ready to take the medications. She continues to hold out hope that maybe her pain will subside, and her discomfort will reduce, and I don’t stop her. I always encourage hope. She is preparing for her “Dignity Day,” and when she is ready, I will be too. But this is her choice when she is ready… this is not about me or mine to make. My only role is to be present for her, to honor her wishes, and to make sure she is and feels safe.

Making this decision is difficult and takes bravery from the person who is choosing to do it. Please know that they are not giving up, or quitting their life, or being frivolous in any way. What they are doing is choosing to die with dignity and peace, and to have one last chance at having autonomy.

I was with a woman recently who has followed all the protocols to be able to do this but has held back for fear that her family would be upset with her. She fell this morning, for the third time this week, and her body is getting weaker. She will soon no longer qualify to exercise her right to do this, because one of the most important protocols is that you must be able to hold the medications yourself and drink the 2-4 ounces without difficulty. With her children at her bedside, I reassured her that while this won’t be easy for them, they respect her decision, and support it, and they want to honor her wishes. I reminded her that to make this choice is brave, and I am a safe place for her to be vulnerable, and scared, but I also wanted her to know that I will not leave her side, I will be there for her and her children, and she has my full support and respect.

My wish is for all human beings is to be cared for well when they are at the end of their life, for there to be no suffering for anyone, and to be allowed the dignity I believe they deserve. We do not have to agree with people’s choices, we all have different opinions and that is okay, but we also all have the right to choose. Medical Aid in Dying, Death with Dignity, and End of Life Option Act (EOLOA) offer human beings who are dying, the legal right and choice to end their suffering and die with dignity on their terms, having one last chance at autonomy, and to feel a sense of peace and freedom within.

I wish that for all human beings.



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