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    Thursday, June 20, 2024

    'I want the option of medical aid in dying'

    I'm a stage four ovarian cancer survivor of nearly eight years. I’ve known for years that I will never go into remission again. My disease has spread to one of my breasts, my liver, lungs, and skin. I’ve nearly run out of options and time.

    I was last able to work in December 2019 due to my steadily declining health. Two years ago, I could still play tennis matches and run road races. Today, walking a mere half a mile takes every ounce of energy and determination that I have. I have endured long bouts of chemotherapy, and I still have not had a break now from debilitating treatment in five years.

    My disease has metastasized to the point where I am always in pain or some level of discomfort. I'm always fatigued. Every day is a long, long day; the night often just seems endless.

    When the pain is so intense it can’t be managed with over-the-counter medication, I resort to Dilaudid; I don't tolerate other narcotics. Within a half-hour of taking a half of a Dilaudid, I become so weak that all I am able to do is lay in bed or sleep; my day is over.

    So if it gets to the point where I have to manage my symptoms on some narcotic like Dilaudid all the time, I will be miserable, and unable to do the things I love. I would be just so far beyond miserable than I already am, not being able to do all the things that bring me joy and enrich my life. And to what end? Again, there's no cure. I’ll just continue to get worse and worse.

    I've not given up. I began a trial a few weeks ago with the hope that there may still be a chance to stabilize my disease. But it is, I am near certain, my absolute last hope. If the trial drugs do not work, my disease will continue to progress, likely rapidly. The pain will get to a point where it is only manageable with a steady dosing of narcotics, and the fatigue will likely increase to the point that I'll no longer be able to perform even the simplest of daily living skills on my own.

    It's sad to me that my outlook is so grim, but it is what is true and it is what is real. I do not want sympathy, so don't feel sorry for me; rather, feel compassion. Imagine how you'd feel in my situation, how long you could tolerate the suffering, the daily loss of capacity before you just want to relax and die peacefully?

    That’s why I have testified twice in the last two legislative sessions in support of Connecticut’s legislation (HB 6425) that would allow mentally capable, terminally ill people to have the option to obtain prescription medication that they could decide to take to peacefully end unbearable suffering.

    One person at the hearing promised she could “guarantee” that hospice could make me comfortable and give me “dignity” at the end of my life.

    My response? “Being doped out on narcotics is not comfortable for me in any way, shape, or form. For other people, their choice. They have their own definition of comfort. And that's why this bill is so unique because it is up to the individual to choose. And so I want to be able to choose what's comfortable for me.”

    I want the option of medical aid in dying, and polling shows Connecticut residents support this option by a 2-1 margin.

    I’m grateful that the Public Health Committee approved this bill last Friday. Out of care and respect, I implore the House and Senate to pass it before it’s too late for me.

    Kim Hoffman is a clinical social worker in Glastonbury.

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