DiversityNursing Blog

CDC Publish Map Of 'Distinctive' Deaths By State

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, May 18, 2015 @ 11:31 AM

Written by David McNamee

www.medicalnewstoday.com 

distinctive death map resized 600A new, first-of-its-kind infographic published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Preventing Chronic Disease journal maps the most 'distinctive' causes of deaths across all states in the US.

The map presents 2001-10 data on causes of death within individual states that were statistically more significant than the national averages, drawn from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) own "Underlying Cause of Death" file, which is accessible through the WONDER (Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research) website.

The largest number of deaths in the map from a single condition were the 37,292 deaths from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease in Michigan. The fewest were 11 deaths from "acute and rapidly progressive nephritic and nephrotic syndrome" in Montana.

The numbers of death from discrete illnesses varied across states. For example, 15,000 HIV-related deaths were recorded in Florida during the study period, 679 deaths from tuberculosis in Texas, and 22 people died from syphilis in Louisiana.

The most distinctive causes of death in New York were from gonorrhea and chlamydia, and the state also had the highest number of deaths from infection of female reproductive organs - mostly as a result of untreated sexually transmitted diseases.

According to the researchers behind the map, some of the findings make "intuitive sense," such as the high numbers of death from influenza in northern states, or pneumoconiosis (black lung disease) in states where coal is mined. However, some of the other findings are less easily explained, such as the deaths from septicemia in New Jersey.

What are the strengths and limitations of the map?

The map only presents one distinctive cause of death for each state, all of which were significantly higher than the national rate. However, many other causes of death that were also significantly higher than national rates were not mapped.

Another limitation of the map is that it has a predisposition toward exhibiting rare causes of death. For instance, in 22 of the states, the total number of deaths mapped was under 100. 

"These limitations are characteristic of maps generally and are why these maps are best regarded as snapshots and not comprehensive statistical summaries," explain the researchers, Francis P. Boscoe, of the New York State Cancer Registry, and Eva Pradhan, of the New York State Department of Health.

Boscoe and Pradhan say that the map has been "a robust conversation starter" - generating hypotheses that they consider would not have occurred had the data been formatted in "an equivalent tabular representation." They add:

"Although chronic disease prevention efforts should continue to emphasize the most common conditions, an outlier map such as this one should also be of interest to public health professionals, particularly insofar as it highlights nonstandard cause-of-death certification practices within and between states that can potentially be addressed through education and training."

Topics: illness, health, healthcare, CDC, population, medical, patients, death, infographic, map, causes of death, states

Clinical Signs For Impending Death In Cancer Patients Identified

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Feb 09, 2015 @ 01:05 PM

Written by James McIntosh

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While many would rather not think about when someone might die, knowing how much longer a seriously ill person has left to live can be very useful for managing how they spend their final days. Researchers have now revealed eight signs in patients with advanced cancer associated with death within 3 days.

Diagnosis of an impending death can help clinicians, patients and their friends and family to make important decisions. Doctors can spare time and resources by stopping daily bloodwork and medication that will not make a short-term difference. Families will know if they still have time to visit their relatives.

"This study shows that simple bedside observations can potentially help us to recognize if a patient has entered the final days of life," says study author Dr. David Hui.

"Upon further confirmation of the usefulness of these 'tell-tale' signs, we will be able to help doctors, nurses, and families to better recognize the dying process, and in turn, to provide better care for the patients in the final days of life."

The study, published in Cancer, follows on from the Investigating the Process of Dying Study - a longitudinal observational study that documented the clinical signs of patients admitted to an acute palliative care unit (APCU). During the study, the researchers identified five signs that were highly predictive of an impending death within 3 days.

For the new study, the researchers again observed the physical changes in cancer patients admitted to two APCUs - at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, and the Barretos Cancer Hospital in Brazil.

Eight highly-specific physical signs were identified

A total of 357 cancer patients participated in the study. The researchers observed them and documented 52 physical signs every 12 hours following their admission to the APCUs. The patients were observed until they died or were discharged from the hospitals, with 57% dying during the study.

The researchers found eight highly-specific physical signs identifiable at the bedside that strongly suggested that a patient would die within the following 3 days if they were present. The signs identified were:

  • Decreased response to verbal stimuli
  • Decreased response to visual stimuli
  • Drooping of "smile lines"
  • Grunting of vocal cords
  • Hyperextension of neck
  • Inability to close eyelids
  • Non-reactive pupils
  • Upper gastrointestinal bleeding.

With the exception of upper gastrointestinal bleeding, all of these signs are related to deterioration in neurocognitive and neuromuscular function.

Neurological decline strongly associated with death

"The high specificity suggests that few patients who did not die within 3 days were observed to have these signs," the authors write. "These signs were commonly observed in the last 3 days of life with a frequency in patients between 38% and 78%. Our findings highlight that the progressive decline in neurological function is associated with the dying process."

As the study is limited by only examining cancer patients admitted to APCUs, it is not known whether these findings will apply to patients with different types of illness. The findings are currently being evaluated in other clinical settings such as inpatient hospices.

On account of the relatively small number of patients observed for this study, the authors also suggest that their findings should be regarded as preliminary until validated by further research.

In the meantime, the authors of the study are working to develop a diagnostic tool to assist clinical decision-making and educational materials for both health care professionals and patients' families.

"Upon further validation, the presence of these telltale signs would suggest that patients [...] are actively dying," they conclude. "Taken together with the five physical signs identified earlier, these objective bedside signs may assist clinicians, family members, and researchers in recognizing when the patient has entered the final days of life."

Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com

Topics: signs, diagnosis, ill, clinicians, health, research, nurses, doctors, health care, cancer, patients, death, treatment, clinical

Global life expectancy has 'increased by 6 years since 1990'

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Dec 22, 2014 @ 01:15 PM

By David McNamee

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Between 1990 and 2013, global life expectancy increased by nearly 5.8 years in men and 6.6 years in women, according to a new analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 published in The Lancet.

"The progress we are seeing against a variety of illnesses and injuries is good, even remarkable, but we can and must do even better," says lead author Dr. Christopher Murray, professor of Global Health at the University of Washington. 

"The huge increase in collective action and funding given to the major infectious diseases such as diarrhea, measles, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria has had a real impact," he says. 

"However, this study shows that some major chronic diseases have been largely neglected but are rising in importance, particularly drug disorders, liver cirrhosis, diabetes and chronic kidney disease."

The analysis suggests that life expectancies in high-income regions have been increased due to falling death rates from most cancers - which are down by 15% - and cardiovascular diseases - which are down by 22%.

In low-income countries, rapidly declining death rates for diarrhea, lower respiratory tract infections and neonatal disorders have boosted life expectancy.

Despite the increases in global life expectancy by nearly 5.8 years in men and 6.6 years in women, some causes of death have seen increased rates of death since 1990.

These increased causes of death include:

  • Liver cancer caused by hepatitis C (up by 125%)
  • Atrial fibrillation and flutter (serious disorders of heart rhythm; up by 100%)
  • Drug use disorders (up by 63%)
  • Chronic kidney disease (up by 37%)
  • Sickle cell disorders (up by 29%)
  • Diabetes (up by 9%)
  • Pancreatic cancer (up by 7%).

HIV/AIDS has 'erased years of life expectancy' in sub-Saharan Africa

The report also points to one notable global region where life expectancy is not increasing. Deaths from HIV/AIDS have erased more than 5 years of life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa, say the authors. HIV/AIDS remains the greatest cause of premature death in 20 of the 48 sub-Saharan countries.

Since 1990, years of life worldwide lost due to HIV/AIDS is reported as having increased by 334%.

In Syria, war is the leading cause of premature death - the conflict caused an estimated 29,947 deaths in 2013, and up to 54,903 and 21,422 deaths in each of the preceding 2 years.

Countries that the authors consider to have made "exceptional gains in life expectancy" over the past 23 years include Nepal, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Niger, Maldives, Timor-Leste and Iran - where, for both sexes, life expectancy has increased by more than 12 years.

Life expectancy at birth in India increased from 57.3 years for men and 58.2 years for women in 1990 to 64.2 years and 68.5 years, respectively, in 2013. The authors say that India has made "remarkable progress" in reducing deaths, with the death rates for children dropping 1.3% per year for adults and 3.7% per year for children.

The report also welcomes dramatic drops in child deaths worldwide over the study period. In 1990, 7.6 million children aged 1-59 months died, but this death rate was down to 3.7 million by 2013.

Igor Rudan and Kit Yee Chan, from the Centre for Population Health Sciences and Global Health Academy at the University of Edinburgh Medical School in the UK, write in a linked comment:

"Estimates of the causes of the global burden of disease, disability, and death are important because they guide investment decisions that, in turn, save lives across the world.

Although WHO's team of experts have been doing fine technical work for many years, its monopoly in this field had removed incentives to invest more time and resources in continuous improvement [...] the competition between WHO and the GBD [Global Burden of Disease Study] has benefited the entire global health community, leading to converging estimates of the global causes of death that everyone can trust."

 

Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com

Topics: global, survival rates, life expectancy, lives, research, nurses, doctors, medical, cancer, medicine, diseases, death, treatment, hospitals, community

Woman Who Saved Relatives From Ebola Coming To U.S. For Nursing School

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Fri, Dec 12, 2014 @ 10:18 AM

By Jen Christensen and Elizabeth Cohen

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A young Liberian woman who saved three of her relatives by nursing them back to health after they contracted the Ebola virus is coming to the United States to finish her nursing degree.

The news comes as Time magazine announced Wednesday that its "Person of the Year" honors go to the Ebola fighters, the "unprecedented numbers" of doctors and nurses who responded when Ebola overtook an already-weak public health infrastructure this year in West Africa.

Fatu Kekula is not named in the article, but she definitely holds a place among those being honored.

The 22-year-old, who was in her final year of nursing school earlier this year, single-handedly took care of her father, mother, sister and cousin when they became ill with Ebola beginning in July.

And she did so with remarkable success. Three out of her four patients survived. That's a 25% death rate -- considerably better than the estimated Ebola death rate of 70%.

Kekula stayed healthy, which is noteworthy considering that hundreds of health care workers have become infected with Ebola, and she didn't even have personal protection equipment -- those white space suits and goggles used in Ebola treatment units.

Instead, Kekula invented her own equipment. International aid workers heard about her "trash bag method" and taught it to other West Africans who can't get into hospitals and don't have protective gear of their own.

Every day, several times a day for about two weeks, Kekula put trash bags over her socks and tied them in a knot over her calves. Then she put on a pair of rubber boots and then another set of trash bags over the boots.

She wrapped her hair in a pair of stockings and over that a trash bag. Next she donned a raincoat and four pairs of gloves on each hand, followed by a mask.

It was an arduous and time-consuming process, but she was religious about it, never cutting corners.

UNICEF Spokeswoman Sarah Crowe said Kekula is amazing.

"Essentially this is a tale of how communities are doing things for themselves," Crowe said. "Our approach is to listen and work with communities and help them do the best they can with what they have."

She emphasized, of course, that it would be better for patients to be in real hospitals with doctors and nurses in protective gear -- it's just that those things aren't available to many West Africans.

No one knows that better than Kekula.

Her Ebola nightmare started July 27, when her father, Moses, had a spike in blood pressure. She took him to a hospital in their home city of Kakata.

A bed was free because a patient had just passed away. What no one realized at the time was that the patient had died of Ebola.

Moses, 52, developed a fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Then the hospital closed down because nurses started dying of Ebola.

Kekula took her father to Monrovia, the capital city, about a 90-minute drive via difficult roads. Three hospitals turned him away because they were full.

She took him back to another hospital in Kakata. They said he had typhoid fever and did little for him, so Kekula took him home, where he infected three other family members: Kekula's mother, Victoria, 57; Kekula's sister, Vivian, 28, and their 14-year-old cousin who was living with them, Alfred Winnie.

While operating her one-woman Ebola hospital for two weeks, Kekula consulted with their family doctor, who would talk to her on the phone, but wouldn't come to the house. She gave them medicines she obtained from the local clinic and fluids through intravenous lines that she started.

At times, her patients' blood pressure plummeted so low she feared they would die.

"I cried many times," she said. "I said 'God, you want to tell me I'm going to lose my entire family?' "

But her father, mother, and sister rallied and were well on their way to recovery when space became available at JFK Medical Center on August 17. Alfred never recovered, though, and passed away at the hospital the next day.

"I'm very, very proud," Kekula's father said. "She saved my life through the almighty God."

Her father immediately began working to find a scholarship for Kekula, so she could finish her final year of nursing school. But the Ebola epidemic shut down many of Liberia's schools, including hers.

After a story about Kekula ran on CNN in September, many people wanted to help her.

A non-profit group called iamprojects.org also got involved.

With some help, Kekula applied to Emory University in Atlanta, the campus with the hospital that has successfully cared for American Ebola patients. Emory accepted the young woman so that she could complete her nursing degree starting this winter semester.

In order to attend, iamprojects will have to raise $40,000 to pay for her reduced tuition rate, living expenses, books and her travel and visa so that she can travel between Africa and the United States.

Kekula's father has no doubt that his daughter will go on to save many more people during her lifetime.

"I'm sure she'll be a great giant of Liberia," he said.

Source: www.cnn.com

Topics: medical school, Ebola, West Africa, travel, education, nursing, health, nurse, medicine, death, treatment, degree, Liberia

Most Americans Agree With Right-to-Die Movement

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Dec 08, 2014 @ 02:26 PM

By Dennis Thompson

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Already-strong public support for right-to-die legislation has grown even stronger in the days since the planned death of 29-year-old brain cancer patient Brittany Maynard, a new HealthDay/Harris Poll has found.

An overwhelming 74 percent of American adults now believe that terminally ill patients who are in great pain should have the right to end their lives, the poll found. Only 14 percent were opposed.

Broad majorities also favor physician-assisted suicide and physician-administered euthanasia.

Only three states -- Oregon, Washington and Vermont -- currently have right-to-die laws that allow physician-assisted suicide.

"Public opinion on these issues seems to be far ahead of political leadership and legislative actions," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll. "Only a few states have legalized physician-assisted suicide and none have legalized physician-administered euthanasia."

People responded to the poll in the weeks after Maynard took medication to end her life in early November.

Maynard moved from California to Oregon following her diagnosis with late-stage brain cancer so she could take advantage of the state's "Death With Dignity Act." Her story went viral online, with a video explaining her choice garnering nearly 11.5 million views on YouTube.

A "poster child for the movement," Maynard helped spark conversations that allowed people to put themselves in her shoes, said Frank Kavanaugh, a board member of the Final Exit Network, a right-to-die advocacy group.

"I think it is just a natural evolution over a period of time," Kavanaugh said of the HealthDay/Harris Poll results. "There was a time when people didn't talk about suicide. These days, each time conversations occur, people think it through for themselves, and more and more are saying, 'That's a reasonable thing to me.'"

The poll also found that:

  • Support for a person's right to die has increased to 74 percent, up from 70 percent in 2011. Those opposed decreased to 14 percent from 17 percent during the same period.
  • Physician-assisted suicide also received increased support, with 72 percent now in favor, compared with 67 percent in 2011. Opposition declined from 19 percent to 15 percent.
  • Sixty-six percent of respondents said doctors should be allowed to comply with the wishes of dying patients in severe distress who ask to have their lives ended, up from 58 percent in 2011. Opposition decreased from 20 percent in 2011 to 15 percent now.

"The very large -- more than 4-to-1 and increasing -- majorities in favor of physician-assisted suicide, and the right of terminally ill patients to end their lives are consistent with other liberal social policy trends, such as support for same-sex marriage, gay rights and the decriminalization of marijuana, seen in the results of referendums and initiatives in the recent mid-term elections," Taylor said.

Support for the right-to-die movement cut across all generations and educational groups, both genders, and even political affiliation, the poll found.

Democrats tended to be more supportive of right-to-die legislation, but 56 percent of Republicans said they favor voluntary euthanasia and 63 percent favor physician-assisted suicide.

Kavanaugh was not surprised. "People think of this as a liberal issue. But I find that as I talk to [conservatives], you can appeal to them on the basis of 'get the government the hell out of my life,'" he said.

But the public is split over how such policies should be enacted, with 35 percent saying that the states should decide on their own while 33 percent believe the decision should be made by the federal government, the poll found.

"Most of the people I know in the field whose opinion I put stock in don't feel there's ever going to be federal movement on it," Kavanaugh said. "You're just going to have to suffer through a state-by-state process."

Kavanaugh does believe this overwhelming public support will result in steady adoption of right-to-die laws.

"I think this will become the ultimate human right of the 21st century, the right to die with dignity," he said. "There are good deaths and bad deaths, and it is possible to have a good death."

Despite increasing public support for assisted suicide, stiff opposition remains in some quarters.

"Assisted suicide sows confusion about the purpose of life and death. It suggests that a life can lose its purpose and that death has no meaning," Rev. Alexander Sample, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, said in a pastoral statement issued during Maynard's final days.

"Cutting life short is not the answer to death," he said. "Instead of hastening death, we encourage all to embrace the sometimes difficult but precious moments at the end of life, for it is often in these moments that we come to understand what is most important about life. Our final days help us to prepare for our eternal destiny."

Todd Cooper, a spokesman for the Portland archdiocese, said the debate over assisted suicide touches him on a very deep level because of his wife, Kathie.

About 10 years ago, she also was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She endured two brain surgeries, two years of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation therapy, and remains alive to this day.

"If she'd given up the fight for life, she wouldn't be here," Cooper said. "That doesn't necessarily happen in every case, but it gives hope for those who struggle to the very end."

source: www.medicinenet.com

Topics: life, pain, choice, assisted suicide, Right-to-die, nursing, nurse, cancer, hospital, patient, death

Pronouncing The Patient Dead

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Nov 03, 2014 @ 11:25 AM

By DANIELA J. LAMAS, M.D.

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One recent night I was asked to declare the death of a woman I had never met.

“Ms. L. passed,” the nurse said. “Could you pronounce her?”

The online medical record told me that she was 32 years old, one year younger than me. She had been in the hospital for months with leukemia that had progressed despite every possible chemotherapy regimen and a failed bone marrow transplant. And now someone needed to perform a death exam.

Declaring death is not technically hard but it is weird and sad and requires reams of paperwork. It is usually done by an intern, but my intern was busy so I said I would do it.

The first time I declared a patient dead was nearly six years earlier. I had been a doctor for a few months when I was summoned overnight with a page that told me that my patient’s heart had stopped. When I got to his room I was out of breath and his nurse smiled at me and told me that there really wasn’t urgency; he wasn’t going anywhere.

It was only when I walked into the room and saw my patient still and utterly silent, his tired family sitting around the bed, that I realized no one had ever told me precisely how to declare death. I wished I could come back later, but it didn’t seem right to leave him there, so I thumbed through my pocket-sized intern survival guide. The manual was alphabetized, and the discussion about declaring death came somewhere before a section on diabetes management.

The instructions were clear and began with the directive to express sympathy. I turned to the family to tell them how sorry I was. Listen for heart sounds and watch to see if the patient is breathing. I placed my stethoscope on the patient’s still chest and waited, watching for him to take a breath, and wondering what I would do if I heard something. But there was nothing. Feel for a pulse. I placed my hand on his neck and there was not even a quiver. And that was that. He was dead.

I looked at the clock and spoke the time out loud and said I was sorry again. And then I left the room.

Later I would face the inevitable pile of paperwork, which one hospital I worked at labeled the “Final Discharge Packet,” and another, in bold letters on a red binder, the “Death Binder.” That was followed by calls to admitting to report the death, minutes that felt like hours on hold with the medical examiner, death certificates returned to me because I had signed on the wrong dotted line. By the end of my intern year, one of the worst parts of having a patient die was those bureaucratic forms and phone calls.

Now, years later, I paused outside the room of Ms. L. before pulling back the curtain.

Until then, most of the patients I had been called to declare looked much as they did in life, only vacant. But this woman had been destroyed by illness. She was bald and yellow and bloated. She must have suffered. I took out my stethoscope as I had learned to do, rested it on her chest and listened to the silence that had taken the place of her heartbeat. I laid my fingers on her neck and there was no pulse. I looked up at the clock and said the time out loud.

As I turned to leave, I couldn’t help but note the wall of cards and photographs next to her hospital bed. She must have run a marathon to raise money for cancer research, for one photo captured her healthy and smiling, arms lifted victoriously as she crossed the finish line. Someone who loved her must have been there, waiting to take that photo.

“She must have been cool,” I said to her nurse. “I bet I would have liked her.”

“She was awesome.”

No one spoke. Two nurses gently pulled out the intravenous lines that had once run antibiotics and fluids into her veins and, one by one, removed the stickers on her chest that had recorded her heartbeat. One of the nurses paused and caught my eye.

“It’s so humid out,” she said. “How do you keep your hair from getting frizzy in this humidity?” I had showered just before my shift, I told her, and then I had come right to work so I hadn’t been outside much. When I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, my hair didn’t even look that good.

And then, because I didn’t know what else to say in front of this 32-year-old woman I would never meet, I offered only: “You know, I’ve always wanted to run a marathon.”

I left the room to begin the paperwork .

Source: nytimes.com

Topics: health, healthcare, nurse, patient, death, intern, profession, duties, declaring death

My Right To Death With Dignity At 29

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Oct 08, 2014 @ 11:18 AM

By Brittany Maynard

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Editor's note: Brittany Maynard is a volunteer advocate for the nation's leading end-of-life choice organization, Compassion and Choices. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Dan Diaz, and mother, Debbie Ziegler. Watch Brittany and her family tell her story at www.thebrittanyfund.org. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- On New Year's Day, after months of suffering from debilitating headaches, I learned that I had brain cancer.

I was 29 years old. I'd been married for just over a year. My husband and I were trying for a family.

Our lives devolved into hospital stays, doctor consultations and medical research. Nine days after my initial diagnoses, I had a partial craniotomy and a partial resection of my temporal lobe. Both surgeries were an effort to stop the growth of my tumor.

In April, I learned that not only had my tumor come back, but it was more aggressive. Doctors gave me a prognosis of six months to live.

Because my tumor is so large, doctors prescribed full brain radiation. I read about the side effects: The hair on my scalp would have been singed off. My scalp would be left covered with first-degree burns. My quality of life, as I knew it, would be gone.

After months of research, my family and I reached a heartbreaking conclusion: There is no treatment that would save my life, and the recommended treatments would have destroyed the time I had left.

I considered passing away in hospice care at my San Francisco Bay-area home. But even with palliative medication, I could develop potentially morphine-resistant pain and suffer personality changes and verbal, cognitive and motor loss of virtually any kind.

Because the rest of my body is young and healthy, I am likely to physically hang on for a long time even though cancer is eating my mind. I probably would have suffered in hospice care for weeks or even months. And my family would have had to watch that.

I did not want this nightmare scenario for my family, so I started researching death with dignity. It is an end-of-life option for mentally competent, terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live. It would enable me to use the medical practice of aid in dying: I could request and receive a prescription from a physician for medication that I could self-ingest to end my dying process if it becomes unbearable.

I quickly decided that death with dignity was the best option for me and my family.

We had to uproot from California to Oregon, because Oregon is one of only five states where death with dignity is authorized.

I met the criteria for death with dignity in Oregon, but establishing residency in the state to make use of the law required a monumental number of changes. I had to find new physicians, establish residency in Portland, search for a new home, obtain a new driver's license, change my voter registration and enlist people to take care of our animals, and my husband, Dan, had to take a leave of absence from his job. The vast majority of families do not have the flexibility, resources and time to make all these changes.

I've had the medication for weeks. I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.

I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity. My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don't deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?

Now that I've had the prescription filled and it's in my possession, I have experienced a tremendous sense of relief. And if I decide to change my mind about taking the medication, I will not take it.

Having this choice at the end of my life has become incredibly important. It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty and pain.

Now, I'm able to move forward in my remaining days or weeks I have on this beautiful Earth, to seek joy and love and to spend time traveling to outdoor wonders of nature with those I love. And I know that I have a safety net.

I hope for the sake of my fellow American citizens that I'll never meet that this option is available to you. If you ever find yourself walking a mile in my shoes, I hope that you would at least be given the same choice and that no one tries to take it from you.

When my suffering becomes too great, I can say to all those I love, "I love you; come be by my side, and come say goodbye as I pass into whatever's next." I will die upstairs in my bedroom with my husband, mother, stepfather and best friend by my side and pass peacefully. I can't imagine trying to rob anyone else of that choice.

What are your thoughts about "death with dignity"?

Source: CNN

Topics: life, choice, nursing, health, nurses, health care, medical, cancer, hospital, terminally ill, brain cancer, medicine, patient, death, tumor

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