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 — just a few hours earlier than John died — she took out her iPad and typed the primary sentences of a passionate argument for medical assist in dying.
“In most of America, lawmakers and the church are deciding this challenge for different individuals,” she says. “Folks they’ve by no means met. Folks whose struggling they haven’t any method 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 ebook printed final 12 months describe the loss of life of her husband, a former lawyer for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and the views of politicians, medical doctors 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 ebook 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 stay 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 preserve you snug,” and he mentioned, “Dammit, I don’t need consolation.”
I’ve since realized that ache is quantity 6 on the listing of the reason why individuals need medical assist in dying. The lack of pleasure in life is primary. The morning after John had that dialog together with his physician, I keep 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 medical doctors to prescribe medicines for the terminally sick to allow them to die peacefully might be a slippery slope towards making suicide extra acceptable?
A: There’s an enormous distinction between medical assist 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 stay 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 assist in dying and suicide. One is a selection. The opposite is there isn’t a selection; she is aware of she’s going to die and she or he desires to die peacefully and in a method that doesn’t go away her kids with reminiscences 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 have to have the ability to self-administer treatment. You due to this fact can not wait till your swallowing mechanism not operates and also you additionally can not wait till you’ll be able to not say that you just’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 resolution.
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 assist in dying. A referendum in Massachusetts discovered some 70 p.c of these polled mentioned they had been in favor. However then the church put $5 million into defeating that proposal.
Now, in case your religion says to you, “I need God to resolve when my life goes to finish,” I’m in assist of that. I’m an energetic Episcopalian myself.
If that’s what you need for your self, I’m completely satisfied to assist you alongside the way in which, and if you’d like all the things medical assist can provide, then in fact that’s what you must have. However I additionally consider that for individuals who’ve reached the tip of a protracted, arduous sickness and are of their last six months earlier than loss of life, nicely, they need to have a selection.
Q: What else do you suppose is stopping these legal guidelines from passing in additional states?
A: Denial is a giant 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, in order that they don’t need to discuss 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 potential machine on the finish?
Folks additionally don’t know the way and the place the legal guidelines are altering. We now have medical assist in dying in Washington, D.C., however so many individuals have no idea it. And 10 states are at present debating it, together with New York and Connecticut. I’m very hopeful this movie will get extra individuals speaking about it. I additionally suppose covid has gotten individuals 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 an observation of it.” I switched medical doctors as soon as we started making this movie and I noticed how few medical doctors 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 challenge?
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 & Selections, [ a U.S. nonprofit group working to improve patients’ rights]. NPR known as and took me to activity. 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 give up in the event that they informed me I couldn’t do these dinners. I informed them I used to be sorry however I wasn’t backing down. I wasn’t being paid to talk, but it surely was crucial to me. Finally they compromised and mentioned do the three dinners you dedicated to do however for those who communicate out on this once more on the air you’ll have to say you’re an advocate for medical assist in dying.
Q: Was this stress a consider your resolution to retire from the present?
A: Completely not. Under no circumstances. I used to be going to be 80 and I truthfully really feel that when these of us who’ve had such lengthy and fantastic careers attain a sure level it’s not truthful to simply preserve going as a result of now we have a giant viewers and folks 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 the 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 in some way change into 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 beneath any present Medical Help in Dying legal guidelines across the nation, so I must plan to take issues into my very own palms.
When my time comes, I need all of my household with me: my husband, son, his spouse, my daughter, her husband, their kids and my dearest pals. I need us all to be sipping champagne and telling good tales in regards to the instances 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 need 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 ebook membership.