Over the weekend, the Washington Post published a piece on National Public Radio host Diane Rehm’s advocacy for death with dignity.
Last year, Rehm’s husband John chose to end his long battle with Parkinson’s by refusing food and water, a decision not unexpected, as he and his wife had promised each other long ago they would help each other end their lives “‘when the time came,’ Diane said, ‘if there was some incurable or inoperable disease.'”
The end of John’s battle with Parkinson’s last June was that moment. They had a meeting with his doctor. Their daughter, Jennifer Rehm, a physician in the Boston area, listened on the phone. She said, “Dad, they can make you comfortable.” Her father replied: “I don’t want comfort.”
The doctor made it clear he couldn’t help, but offered the self-starvation option, which the Supreme Court has ruled legal.
That was the option John chose.
Rehm has covered end-of-life topics on her syndicated program, “The Diane Rehm Show,” including voices from both sides – including palliative care physician Ira Byock, who argues on the other side of the debate. While she conscious about the need to remain objective as a journalist, off-air she is now working as an advocate with the organization Compassion & Choices, telling her story.
University of Vermont political scientist Howard Ball, author of At Liberty to Die: The Battle for Death with Dignity in America:
She brings gravitas, she brings her experience and she brings a level of reason and sanity to this discussion that is severely lacking when you look at the opponents of death with dignity.
Both Rehm and her late husband are Episcopalian, and in John’s last days, he was given last rites by an Episcopal priest and friend. He donated his body to George Washington Medical School for study (which Diane will do as well).
“I believe… there is total acceptance in heaven for John’s decision to leave behind this earthly life.”
Yesterday’s show revisited the right-to-die topic: read and listen here.
Posted by Cara Ellen Modisett