Robert’s Story: Dying with Dignity
Robert Schwartz is dying from AIDS at the age of 50. He’s had many complications and many close calls in the last ten years. The film begins with Robert on his way to Oregon’s Medical Science University to pick up a lethal dose of drugs that have been prescribed to him legally under the State’s Death with Dignity Act.
Oregon is one of the few states in the US to allow the medical procedure in which doctors prescribe these lethal dosages to terminally ill patients in order for them to end their lives. Robert is one of the first patients to opt for assisted suicide.
The law clearly states that Robert must take the pills by himself. No one is allowed to help him do this. Robert has been instructed to say his goodbyes and then swallow close to 90 capsules of secobarbital. Allegedly he will be in a coma within five minutes and after that there’s no point of return.
It’s important to understand that it’s not just about somebody showing up and asking a doctor to assist him or her in suicide. There are forms that need to be filled out including two oral requests and one written request. Also, two doctors have to confirm that the patient has less than six months to live and either of them may insist on a psychological evaluation to rule out depression.
Robert worked for many years as an EMT where he witnessed death firsthand. He remembers patients begging him to help them die and it never made sense that he could help his dog die, but not a human being that was suffering. For Robert it’s an issue of quality of life versus quantity and the quantity has become irrelevant.
Along with his former partner, Robert was an activist in the initiative to make the Death with Dignity Act a law in Oregon.
Many might argue that it’s not an act of compassion at all. But once a patient has suffered from as many complications as Robert has, it makes no sense to try to artificially prolong his or her life. Are medical doctors playing God or is this really an act of compassion? Watch this film now.
I will be working with Washington Choice and Compassion to chose when and how I die. I have a progression, terminal brain condition that probably will not make it possible for doctors to predict when I have only six more months to live without intervention. It is also possible that I will develop Alzheimer’s Disease as part of the progression of my disease (cerebral amyliod angiopathy), thus making it questionable whether my mental state will be considered “capable” of making the decision to request Death with Dignity according to the laws of Washington state. If that’s the case, I will have to resort to voluntarily stop eating and drinking in order to effect my death. I would prefer a simpler more direct means, such as Robert had in this film, but that may not be possible.
My brother fought hard and long to make physician-assisted suicide possible in the State of Alaska. He and others were not successful, and my brother, who had ALS, also had to take things into his own hands. Fortunately, his death was not a long drawn-out, painful process. I am glad for him. This was years ago, and now it’s my time to plan for myself. Thank goodness for Choice and Compassion and similar organizations helping and supporting people to die with dignity.
Karen L. Lew
I agree, and thank you for your fight!
Being an extreme man slut that likes to pnp has consequences
May God rest your soul Robert, I could almost feel the pain you were going through watching the video. I admired you so much, coping as you did, and for the length of time you did. I feel, that my heart was breaking, like yours must of been, when your pets were been taken away.
Your at peace now, free of pain, Good Night Robert.