HB 54 offers compassion for terminally ill

Commentary By Barbara McDaniel
For The Cordova Times

Editor’s note: HB 54, an act providing an end-of-life option for terminally ill individuals, recently had a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, where it was referred in mid-February.  It is still being held in that committee.

In life, death at some point is inevitable. While most accept that, many wonder, “Will it be comfortable?” When I was young I would say “I hope I die in my sleep. But later, as an adult, I found that I no longer needed to settle for simply hoping that I die comfortably. In 1991, the Patient Self-Determination Act established for individuals the opportunity to at least make legal, mitigating plans that will improve our own odds that we won’t die a prolonged, painful, and very expensive death, one that would traumatize us and those who care about us.

In consultation with my children, all adults, I modeled taking responsibility for one’s life (and that includes death) and created my Advanced Directives 16 years ago. Five years later, on my request, my doctor helped me obtain my Certificate of Comfort One Status, the do-not-resuscitate order for emergency or medical personnel. My local hospital has copies of the documents on file. I wear a bracelet. Basic information is always with me. And the best part is my children know what is coming, they know the plan, and they know what to do. We are prepared.

Now I am covered legally in instances of sudden, life-threatening accidents, violence, or physical failures. But I still do not possess the last piece of personal control I need to ensure my access to careful, professional medical assistance in ending my life in the event of a diagnosis of terminal illness. HB 54 is the missing piece I need to complete my personal plan to increase my likelihood of experiencing a comfortable, orderly, dignified death.

I whole-heartedly thank Rep. Drummond for bringing forward this compassionate bill for personal rights and responsibility. I encourage readers to consider the benefit of such preparations and contact their representatives and ask them to support and pass HB 54.

Find Alaska’s Advance Directives (Living Will) form at: http://tinyurl.com/y9fg46po

For more information and forms for Comfort One visit: http://tinyurl.com/mtkmp24

For information about HB54 visit: http://tinyurl.com/ycob22sk

Barbara McDaniel, a lifelong Alaskan, resides in Wasilla.