As Posted In an Ann Landers Column in 1998

Written by John Lee: Compassion in Dying of Washington

DEAR ANN LANDERS: Several years ago, you were kind enough to print a letter from our organization Compassion in Dying, about our work with the terminally ill and their families. We received more than 9,000 letters of encouragement and many generous donations to help us continue our work.

Compassion in Dying provides counseling and support related to end-of-life choices. We believe dying individuals should be permitted to make their own end-of-life decisions and terminally ill individuals who request a hastened death should be offered assistance.

Our primary work involves personal counseling, emotional support and assistance to terminally ill adults who wish to end their suffering in a safe, humane, nonviolent manner. We continue to follow strict guidelines and our services are offered at no charge. We have come to see the importance of choice for dying patients and their families. Perhaps I can illustrate how critical this choice is by citing an example.

“Mark” was a 43-year old man suffering the final stages of cancer. At the advice of his hospice nurse, his wife called our office after Mark begged her to buy a gun so he could end his suffering. Over the next few days, with the cooperation of his personal physician, Mark obtained medications with which to end his suffering, if he chose to do so. He never did.

Four months later, his wife called us to say Mark had died a quiet death that morning in her arms. Through her tears, she asked me to thank our volunteers for their assistance and told me that from the moment Mark was given the power of choice, he never spoke of suicide again.

Please let your readers know of our continuing work to provide end-of-life options for the terminally ill.