GENEVA – Colin Campbell, remembering the suffering his father went through in the late stages of emphysema, became a volunteer for Compassion & Choices, which advocates for patient rights for end-of-life care.
George Campbell died Dec. 26, 1980 at age 72 after three years in a nursing home.
“Every time I visited him, he asked me to give him something to help him die,” Campbell said. “I wanted so much to do something for him. But even if I could find some drug, if I had access. ... It would be three hours later, he’s dead of a drug overdose – you can’t get away with it.”
Compassion & Choices helps people learn about their options and shows them how to prepare for death.
“Compassion & Choices teaches people the best ways to prepare for that one event that we are all absolutely guaranteed to experience,” Campbell stated in an email.
Compassion & Choices is hosting a free presentation from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 30 at the St. Charles Public Library, 1 S. Sixth Ave., St. Charles. Amy Sherman will present various care options, including palliative care, hospice and medical aid dying in authorized states.
Sherman, an attorney and the Midwest Regional Campaign Manager for Compassion & Choices, said the organization is part of a statewide group called the Illinois End of Life Options Coalition. It is a joint project with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and Final Options Illinois.
“Our point is, we want people – before they are in a crisis – to consider, ‘How do I want the end of my days to be? What is right for me? What are my values, beliefs and priorities?’” Sherman said.
“Our organization does not push one way or the other. We want to respect people’s views, but we want people to have the full range of options,” Sherman said. “So we work on how to ensure that people do proper advance directives, have conversations with family doctors and loved ones. And make sure they understand what are the possibilities.”
Among the ways the organization empowers people is to inform them that they don’t have to accept medical treatment, Sherman said.
“We are also working in Illinois to educate people about medical aid in dying,” Sherman said. “When you have a prognosis of six months or fewer to live, we have found – even with the best of palliative care – there are some who find the suffering and pain unbearable. And we want them to have the ability – as they do in 10 other jurisdictions – to request a prescription from a physician … (that) puts them to sleep and leads to a gentle, peaceful death as a way to avoid suffering.”
A person considering medical aid in dying would need a second assessment from another doctor, she said.
The presentation will also include information about end-of-life planning and a spectrum of options, Sherman said.
“This is really about helping people start the conversation,” Sherman said. “It’s about learning how to make sure their wishes are honored.”
While some religious groups would oppose medical aid in dying, Sherman said the organization simply asks them to recognize that other people have other beliefs.
“I never try to convince them one way or another,” Sherman said. “But the majority of Americans support medical aid in dying, seven in 10 Americans, and that includes faith groups.”
While Sherman said the organization is not ready to push for medical aid in dying legislation in Illinois, Campbell is.
“I don’t want to go through that myself,” Campbell said, recalling his father’s suffering. “And I don’t want to put my family through it. Stroke, cancer or whatever other lingering illness I might have – I’m going to die anyway. … I’d much rather get together when the time is right and we will all hold hands and I will leave Earth peacefully. I can’t do it legally. It’s not an act of suicide, but an act of love.”