Diane, the celebrated NPR speak present host and John’s spouse of 54 years, saved vigil for the subsequent 10 days. Simply after 2 a.m. on June 23, 2014 — a number of hours earlier than John died — she took out her iPad and typed the primary sentences of a passionate argument for medical support in dying.
“In most of America, lawmakers and the church are deciding this problem for different folks,” she says. “Folks they’ve by no means met. Folks whose struggling they don’t have any manner of understanding.”
In 2016, Diane retired from “The Diane Rehm Present,” which had run for greater than 30 years on NPR station WAMU. Since then, she has championed what she and different advocates name “loss of life with dignity.” On Wednesday, PBS will broadcast her new documentary, “When My Time Comes.”
The one-hour program and a equally titled e book revealed final yr describe the loss of life of her husband, a former lawyer for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and the views of politicians, docs and sufferers in regards to the motion that has led to new legal guidelines in 9 states and the District.
Diane remarried in 2017, at age 81, to retired Lutheran minister and therapist John Hagedorn. Since retiring from “The Diane Rehm Present,” she has been producing a twice-weekly podcast and a month-to-month e book membership for WAMU. She spoke to The Washington Publish in an hour-long phone dialog that has been edited for size and readability.
Q: Why did your husband need to die?
A: It wasn’t a lot that he was in ache. He mentioned he had misplaced his sense of dignity. He was a really proud man, and he felt that if he continued to reside he was going to lose much more dignity. He nonetheless had his sharp thoughts, and he knew precisely what he was doing and saying. Our daughter mentioned, “Dad, we will hold you snug,” and he mentioned, “Dammit, I don’t need consolation.”
I’ve since realized that ache is quantity 6 on the record of explanation why folks need medical support in dying. The lack of pleasure in life is primary. The morning after John had that dialog together with his physician, I bear in mind strolling in to see him and saying: “Sweetheart, you look fantastic! Your face is rosy and your eyes are glowing!” He mentioned: “I’ve begun the journey.”
Q: Do you are worried that these legal guidelines permitting docs to prescribe medicines for the terminally unwell to allow them to die peacefully may very well be a slippery slope towards making suicide extra acceptable?
A: There’s an enormous distinction between medical support in dying and assisted suicide. Individuals who commit suicide need to die. Within the movie, I communicate with a 37-year-old mom of two with breast most cancers that had unfold all through her physique. She mentioned “If I had my druthers, I’d reside till I’m 90. However I do know I can’t, and I don’t need my 13-year-old son to see me endure.” That’s the distinction between medical support in dying and suicide. One is a selection. The opposite is there is no such thing as a selection; she is aware of she’s going to die and she or he needs to die peacefully and in a manner that doesn’t go away her kids with recollections of her in agony.
Q: What limits, if any, defend individuals who is likely to be pressured to finish their lives early?
A: These legal guidelines are very particular, modeled on the primary one, handed in Oregon in 1997. You should be inside six months of loss of life. You could be capable to self-administer remedy. You due to this fact can’t wait till your swallowing mechanism not operates and also you additionally can’t wait till you’ll be able to not say that you simply’re prepared. In some states, you should be interviewed by a psychiatrist, alone, in order that it’s clear that nobody else is making this choice.
Q: What stunned you essentially the most as you probably did your analysis?
A: What actually shocks me is the truth that the Roman Catholic Church has been essentially the most well-funded and outspoken opponent of medical support in dying. A referendum in Massachusetts discovered some 70 % of these polled mentioned they have been in favor. However then the church put $5 million into defeating that proposal.
Now, in case your religion says to you, “I would like God to resolve when my life goes to finish,” I’m in help of that. I’m an lively Episcopalian myself.
If that’s what you need for your self, I’m completely satisfied to help you alongside the best way, and in order for you all the pieces medical support can provide, then in fact that’s what you must have. However I additionally imagine that for individuals who’ve reached the tip of an extended, arduous sickness and are of their closing six months earlier than loss of life, nicely, they need to have a selection.
Q: What else do you assume is stopping these legal guidelines from passing in additional states?
A: Denial is an enormous drawback. Speaking about loss of life is so taboo. You see me within the movie standing within the church, asking how many individuals within the congregation plan to not die? Everyone is uncomfortable with the thought of loss of life, so that they don’t need to speak about it. However then what occurs when your mom or father is dying and also you haven’t spoken to them prematurely? How are you to know what they need? Do they need to be hooked as much as each doable machine on the finish?
Folks additionally don’t know the way and the place the legal guidelines are altering. We now have medical support in dying in Washington, D.C., however so many individuals have no idea it. And 10 states are at the moment debating it, together with New York and Connecticut. I’m very hopeful this movie will get extra folks speaking about it. I additionally assume covid has gotten folks pondering extra about how shut loss of life is for all of us.
As quickly because the virus hit, I known as my very own doctor and mentioned I don’t want to go to a hospital if I come down with covid. I cannot be placed on a ventilator. She mentioned “If that’s your want, I’ll make a remark of it.” I switched docs as soon as we started making this movie and I noticed how few docs are prepared to assist people who find themselves able to make up their minds.
Q: How did your bosses at NPR react to your outspokenness on such a controversial problem?
A: In 2016, there was a narrative about my advocacy in The Washington Publish. I used to be planning then to do a number of dinners for Compassion & Decisions, [ a U.S. nonprofit group working to improve patients’ rights]. NPR known as and took me to process. Then 10 of the highest executives at NPR got here to WAMU and we sat within the convention room with my supervisor, and he was so anxious I used to be going to face up and say I stop in the event that they instructed me I couldn’t do these dinners. I instructed them I used to be sorry however I wasn’t backing down. I wasn’t being paid to talk, but it surely was essential to me. Ultimately they compromised and mentioned do the three dinners you dedicated to do however in case you communicate out on this once more on the air you’ll have to say you’re an advocate for medical support in dying.
Q: Was this rigidity a think about your choice to retire from the present?
A: Completely not. Under no circumstances. I used to be going to be 80 and I actually really feel that when these of us who’ve had such lengthy and fantastic careers attain a sure level it’s not honest to only hold going as a result of we’ve an enormous viewers and other people need us to maintain going. There are younger, gifted individuals who should have a proper to maneuver into these chairs.
Q: Your documentary reveals you with a younger man videotaping you expressing your needs for a way you need to die. What are you telling him?
A: That’s my grandson Benjamin. He was 19 on the time. I’m telling him that ought to I one way or the other turn out to be a person who experiences Alzheimer’s, I would like you to inform me early on that you’re seeing this. If that does occur, I’ll start making my plans to finish my life earlier than I’m not in a position to take action. Clearly, this isn’t allowed below any present Medical Help in Dying legal guidelines across the nation, so I should plan to take issues into my very own arms.
When my time comes, I would like all of my household with me: my husband, son, his spouse, my daughter, her husband, their kids and my dearest buddies. I would like us all to be sipping champagne and telling good tales in regards to the occasions we’ve shared. And when the second arrives, I need to go into my very own bed room with my kids and my husband and I would like to have the ability to go peacefully with the medicines.
Correction: An earlier model of the story mentioned Diane Rehm had retired from WAMU. She had retired from “The Diane Rehm Present,” however she stays with the radio station, doing a podcast and a e book membership.