At the bottom of this page is the latest edition of The Alex and Ronni Show – a conversation between me and my former husband, Alex Bennett, that we recorded on Tuesday.
Early in the recording, Alex (who lives in New York City) asked about Oregon's Death With Dignity Act – that is, physician-assisted suicide – and as serendipity sometimes has it, later that day as I was looking around the web, a documentary about an Oregon married couple's choice to die together in this way turned up.
Living and Dying: A Love Story is powerful and poignant, sad and uplifting and by the end, you know this couple, Charlie and Francie Emerick, made the right choice for them.
The couple's daughter, Sher Safran and her husband, Rob, asked permission to record her parents' final days and hours, and also gained their approval to share the video publicly.
Both Charlie and Francie had been diagnosed with less than six months to live and they are thought to be the only couple to take the drugs together. Kaiser Health News (KNH) reports,
”The pair, early members of the 1980s-era Hemlock Society, had supported the choice for years, and, when their illnesses worsened, they were grateful to have the option for themselves, family members said.
“'This had always been their intention,'” said [another] daughter Jerilyn Marler, 66, who was the couple’s primary caretaker in recent years. 'If there was a way they could manage their own deaths, they would do it.'”
And so they did, taking the state-prescribed medication together on 20 April 2017. Kaiser Health News again:
Francie, 88, went first, within 15 minutes, a testament to the state of her badly weakened heart. Charlie, 87, a respected ear, nose and throat physician, died an hour later, ending a long struggle that included prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease diagnosed in 2012.
“'They had no regrets, no unfinished business,' said Sher Safran, 62, one of the pair’s three grown daughters. 'It felt like their time, and it meant so much to know they were together.'”
But that is only the bare bones of the story. Sher and Rob, using mostly cell phone video, have produced a remarkable record not only of her parents' long (66 years) and loving marriage, but of the procedure involved with using the Death With Dignity Law in Oregon that so many of us are curious about.
Here is a trailer from the Safrans' 45-minute documentary, Living and Dying: A Love Story.
You can see a short, 20-minute version of the documentary at the Safran's website, Share Wisdom Network, where the longer, full version is also available to view online. (Scroll down to get to them.)
It is astonishingly brave to make this choice of controlling one's death – choosing time and day and making preparations. I've always said that I want to die in my sleep although I'm told most people say this and that it doesn't happen often.
Physician-assisted suicide is, to me, a good alternative when you know there is no chance of recovery and that your life will become considerably more difficult and/or painful toward the end. I would hope, in that circumstance, I would make the decision Charlie and Francie Emerick did.
Here are a couple of links that may interest you:
The Alex and Ronni Show
Recorded Tuesday 6 April 2018.