After a five-year journey with ovarian cancer, I’ve exhausted all treatments that can prolong my life and decided to enroll in hospice care. I intend to remain at my home in St. Paul and enjoy my life as much as I can for as long as I can.
So, it is with mixed emotion that I celebrate New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham signing the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Option Act into law on April 8, making New Mexico the 10th state (11th jurisdiction) to allow terminally ill adults the option of a peaceful death. On the one hand, I am happy for the many advocates who have worked tirelessly for years to make this option a reality in their state; but I’m also truly disheartened and frustrated that Minnesota lawmakers refuse to grant terminally ill Minnesotans like me the same choice.
I’ve been advocating for the Minnesota End-of-Life Option Act since it was first introduced in 2015 and have come to the unfortunate realization that it will not pass in time for me because lawmakers are fearful or playing politics or just fail to see the need as urgent. I’m outraged at their indifference, especially because a large majority of Minnesotans support the legislation.
Over the years, as a volunteer for Compassion & Choices, I’ve met with and spoken to many people about medical aid in dying. The vast majority support the option because too many have witnessed unnecessary suffering. But, in Minnesota, medical aid in dying is a criminal act. I believe that is a private, personal decision best made by individuals, their families, their doctors and their spiritual advisers; it should not be left up to lawmakers to decide.
I’ve far outlived most Stage IV ovarian cancer survivors, and for that I am grateful. But, over the years, I’ve watched the disease take other women and so I know that end will not be easy. As I move into hospice, I am at peace and making the most of my time despite a constant struggle with pain. Having the option of medical aid in dying – having a prescription for a peaceful death by my side – could help ease my anxiety knowing that I can decide if and when I’ve had enough. It would also allow me to plan for my final days and invite my friends and family to be at my side.
I know that this movement will continue to grow and that, eventually, most Americans will have the freedom to make our own end-of-life decisions. But it won’t happen by magic. Minnesotans who care need to get involved now. There is no time to waste.
Marianne Turnbull is a retired social worker who lives in St. Paul.
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