My oncologist tells me I’m three steps ahead of her other patients. Not because of my cancer treatments, but because of my background in helping others deal with death and dying.

As a trained hospice volunteer, bereavement counselor and ordained interfaith community minister, I’ve become very familiar with end-of-life issues and often thought about my own end-of-life wishes. I understand such things as palliative care and advance directives, and I’ve seen the many ways individuals and families deal with death.

My experiences hit home for me when I was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer in the fall of 2013. It was a devastating diagnosis. But thanks to excellent surgical and oncology care, I’ve had a very good quality of life since then.

Unfortunately, the cancer recently returned, and my doctor has given me a year or less to live. Nevertheless, I continue to live my life to the fullest.

I’ve seen peaceful deaths, but I’ve also seen sad deaths — sad because of the pain and prolonged dying process endured by terminally ill patients. Hospice provides wonderful care, but sometimes pain is difficult to manage, and I’ve seen terminally ill patients in pain beyond what anyone should have to endure.

Should my own suffering become too great, I would want access to the option of aid in dying — medication that I could take myself to end my life peacefully so that I may die at home, surrounded by loved ones. Isn’t that the death we all hope for?

Aid in dying isn’t currently an option for the people of Maine, but Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta; Rep. Roberta Beavers, D-South Berwick, and other legislators want to change that and sponsored “death with dignity” legislation in our state this past legislative session.

In a historic vote, Maine’s House of Representatives passed a “death with dignity” bill onJune 15, though the next day the measure fell short of passage in the Senate by a single vote.

The bill would have authorized medical aid in dying, which allows terminally ill, mentally competent adults the right to request a prescription for life-ending medication that can be self-administered — when and if the patient chooses — to reduce suffering and achieve a peaceful, humane death.

When my final weeks come, I hope that the currently available options will be enough to ease me into my death. I fully support hospice and palliative care and those who would choose these paths. But if these don’t work for me, I want another option to reduce my suffering.

It doesn’t need to be one or the other — we should have all end-of-life options available and let people decide for themselves what’s best.

Some object to medical aid in dying, often calling it “suicide.” But they are wrong. I am anything but suicidal, and it would be unfair to label me as such. I’m only 55 years old, and I have so much more I want to do — officiate more weddings, counsel more grieving families, become a grandmother.

Aid in dying takes a horrible situation and makes it just a little gentler. It would provide me with less fear, greater peace of mind and a measure of comfort knowing that if things got too bad, there was another option to die humanely.

What’s more, I believe that just having the option of aid in dying would give me greater physical and emotional strength to keep going and endure more, and actually help me to live longer.

Everyone dies at some point. What I’m most afraid of is how it will happen for me, because dying from cancer can be a painful and drawn-out process. I believe that Mainers and people everywhere deserve the personal freedom to choose how they will die when death is imminent.

Government has no right to take that away from me. That choice lies between God and me.

I thank our legislators who voted to expand end-of-life options, and I am confident that sympathetic public sentiment will carry aid in dying to victory in the future — if not for me, then for the many who will benefit from it after I’m gone.

Eva Thompson is a resident of Camden.


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