Physician Assisted Suicide, though Legal in Oregon, is Not Available to Patients in Lincoln County’s Samaritan Health Care System

Nancy Mead, October 25, 2016:

My friend Nedra Whiteman Hathaway chose to leave this world under her own terms. It is her hope that others have the ability to make the choice she made if they so choose.  This option is not easily available to those of us residing in Lincoln County, Oregon (though physician assisted suicide is legal in Oregon) because of Samaritan’s policy not allowing its caregivers to provide this care.*  We are a community made up largely of senior citizens, many of whom may wish to die as Nedra did.  They should have that option.

Read below her daughter’s beautiful description of the choice she made, and how important it was to her to have this choice.

Karen Hopkins:

Let me share with you a bit of the story of my mom’s final months… To be able to choose the way, the time, and the place she died was a very high value for her. To her way of thinking this final choice represented a fundamental human right.

After moving to Oakland fifteen months ago my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and underwent both major surgery and 18 rounds of chemotherapy. Even after this aggressive treatment we learned that the cancer was still present. Rather than enduring any further treatment, she chose to enter Hospice Care so she could stay at home, watch CNN, and be part of family life.

After exercising her right to vote early last week and celebrating her 80th birthday (10/20) with the entire family this weekend, she chose to take the End of Life medication available to her under California law. In fact, on her birthday she was part of a panel of End of Life patients sponsored by the Kaiser Hospital system in Northern California. There she expressed her strong belief in her right to make this decision and the importance that such programs be available to all who suffer.

At her death she was surrounded by her family and confident in her faith. On more than one occasion she said, “I am not afraid to die.” Throughout her last months it was very clear to us all how important family, family history, enduring friendships, in short many of you, were to her. Her last gesture was an expression of triumph and joy.

I don’t know that this is the path that I would chose for myself – although having experienced it firsthand I might. However, to honor my mom’s legacy I want to make sure her story is shared as widely as possible. Thus I share it with you in the hope that you might talk about it with someone you love. She would want this.

*Samaritan Policy: 

“If a patient requests assistance in obtaining Physician-Assisted Suicide from a member of the health care team with appropriate training and expertise (e.g., nursing staff, social worker, chaplain, or physician), the employee shall:
A. Explore and assess the patient’s desire for Physician-Assisted Suicide and, if desired by the patient, refer the patient to a non-SHS provider or organization to assist the patient.”

One thought on “Physician Assisted Suicide, though Legal in Oregon, is Not Available to Patients in Lincoln County’s Samaritan Health Care System

  1. Thank you for sharing this. My mother too chose to leave this world on her own terms almost two years ago. I have know Nedra through our involvement in Rotary in Forest Grove. She was and remains a person I have admired. I also consider her a thoughtful and courageous woman so understand and support her choice.

    Susan Kaeser Winterbourne

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