Kevin Drum, writer for the website and magazine Mother Jones, has penned an excellent article for the January /February
2016 issue on physician assisted dying which has been posted
HAS A BEGINNING. This one
starts in late 2001, when my father-in-law fractured three
of his ribs. Harry was a retired physician, and after a
thorough workup that he insisted on, it turned out that his
bone density was severely compromised for no immediately
apparent reason. Further tests eventually revealed the
cause: He had multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow.
Harry’s cancer was caught early, and it progressed
slowly. By 2007, however, it had taken over his body. When
my wife saw him in early 2008, she remarked that he looked
like someone in a lot of pain but trying not to show
it—despite the fact that he was taking oxycodone, a powerful
During a career that lasted more than three decades, he had
watched all too many of his patients struggle with their
final months, and this experience had persuaded him that he
would take his own life if he found himself dying of an
agonizing and clearly terminal illness. Now he was. Finally,
on the evening of January 29, he stumbled and fell during
the night, and decided his time had come: He was afraid if
he delayed any longer he’d become physically unable to
remain in control of his own destiny.
This was important. Since Harry lived in California, where
assisted suicide was illegal, he had to be able to take his
life without help. Because of this, he initially intended
not to tell either of his daughters about his decision. He
wanted to run absolutely no risk that merely by being with
him in his final moments, or even knowing of his plans,
they’d be held responsible for his death.
Luckily, neither my wife nor her sister had to learn of
their father’s death via a call from the morgue. A
friend persuaded him to call both of them, and on January 30
we all drove out to Palm Springs to say our last goodbyes.
After that, Harry wrote a note explaining that he was about
to take his own life and that no one else had provided any
assistance. It was time. He categorically forbade any of us
from so much as taking his arm. He walked into his bedroom,
put a plastic bag over his head, and opened up a tank of
helium. A few minutes later he was dead.
You can read the full article