Las Vegas Sun

August 20, 2019

Currently: 105° — Complete forecast

GUEST COLUMN:

Legislation would support my wish to die peacefully

I have incurable cancer, but death does not scare me. My biggest fear is dying painfully in a horrific way.

Don’t get me wrong. This strong Latina wants to live. That is why my husband, Jerry, and I drive to UCLA Medical Center twice a month from our home in Las Vegas. But when our Lord calls me, I do not want to be connected to machines, catheters and tubes that will cause more pain in my spine, bones, body, nausea and vomiting that only debilitate my relatively young 44-year-old body.

I want to die peacefully, surrounded by my husband and our two sons, two daughters and precious grandchildren holding my hand in prayer. The last words I want to hear are “We love you, Mom. We love you, Grandma.”

So I am relieved to know that legislators in Nevada are considering a bill that would honor the autonomy of terminally ill people to decide how and when they die, when death is inevitable.

I strongly believe Nevadans living with a terminal condition should have the option — when the time comes — to make the end-of-life care decisions that are right for them. One of these options should be the legal right to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can decide to take to die peacefully, if their suffering becomes intolerable.

My family’s world came to halt in August 2017, when doctors gave the pain in my bones a name: multiple myeloma, a rare and incurable type of blood cancer.

Treatment started immediately. So did body aches, vomiting and the nausea that only made me sicker every day. Last year, I had to stop treatment after only five rounds of chemotherapy because of the damage it caused my kidneys and liver. To make matters worse, doctors found breast cancer this year.

As I endured my treatment, I was heartbroken to learn about the agonizing death from brain cancer of Miguel Carrasquillo, a terminally ill 35-year-old Puerto Rican. The former chef recorded bilingual videos in English and Spanish to urge Latinos to support medical aid-in-dying legislation. Unfortunately, Miguel died in June 2016 without the option to end his searing pain because his native Puerto Rico had not passed the law he fought for until his last breath.

I want to die peacefully, not painfully, like Miguel Carrasquillo.

Seventy-two percent of Nevada residents like myself support medical aid-in-dying legislation, including 63 percent of Latino voters and 76 percent of Catholics.

Every person in the United States should have equal access to all health care services, including the full range of end-of-life care options, including medical aid in dying.

I understand this end-of-life care option may not be for everyone. Many terminally ill people have different opinions about what decisions are right for them in the final stages of their lives. But as a Christian who respects other people’s faiths, it is not for me to judge someone else.

I never met Miguel. But I want to honor his memory and those of others who are dying. That is why I traveled to Carson City recently to join legendary civil rights activist Dolores Huerta to urge legislators to support of Senate Bill 165, a bipartisan bill known as the Death with Dignity Act.

That is why I decided to tell my story.

We all have one life and the opportunity to do something to help others. That is what I want to do with the time God gives me on this earth. I urge my Latino brothers and sisters to join me. Let’s stand up for those who are dying.

Let’s be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. Let’s fight for people dying of a terminal illness whose last wish is to die peacefully in their sleep without unnecessary suffering.

As Huerta says: Si se puede (Yes, we can).

Hanna Olivas is a 44-year-old mother of four and grandmother. She is an eyelash artist who owns her business in Las Vegas.