By Laurie and Melissa Wilcox, NJ.com
We have lots in common, we always have. We were both nurses for more than 25 years. We love cooking and seeing a good show.
We also both have terminal diseases.
Since 2014, Melissa Wilcox has been fighting small cell lung cancer, a very aggressive form of cancer with poor outcomes. She’s undergone chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and multiple hospital stays. Her prognosis remains grim.
As for Laurie Wilcox, she has battled a combination of chronic rheumatoid arthritis and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which has required chemotherapy and frequent hospitalizations, rendering me dependent on oxygen support. Worst of all, her pain continues to worsen.
While our time may be limited, we continue to count our blessings that we can do things like go to the beach and spend time with our families. Though we live our days the best we can, a cloud hangs over our heads — the prospect of a drawn out, painful death.
This is why we both would be greatly comforted if New Jersey provided the option of medical aid in dying, which would allow us to die peacefully, if all other medical options fail to control our suffering in our final days and weeks.
Having been nurses, we are well aware of end-of-life planning and existing treatment options. But while palliative or hospice care work for many people, the pain and symptoms of some terminally ill individuals simply cannot be controlled and their final weeks are nothing but suffering.
This year, we need to pass the New Jersey Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (A2451), which would give New Jerseyans the same autonomy and end-of-life options available to a growing number of terminally ill adults in other states. Already available in five states, medical aid in dying allows a terminally ill, mentally capable adult the option to request a prescription for life-ending medication that the individual can self-administer in order to reduce suffering and die peacefully.
This isn’t assisted suicide — we want nothing more than to live as long as our diseases will allow us. We simply want the autonomy to make our own end-of-life health care decisions, just as we are making our treatment decisions now.
It has been proven to be sound medical practice over a combined 30 years in states where it is authorized. In fact, the research shows that where aid in dying is available, more people get more and better hospice care, and overall end-of-life healthcare improves. Patients become better informed about end-of-life treatments, and they are able to have more open and honest discussions with their doctors and families. Why do New Jerseyans deserve any less?