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For National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) on Saturday, April 16, an Illinois native with a deadly brain tumor has created a video (in both English and Spanish) to champion death with dignity, urging lawmakers to pass a bill allowing people to get medical assistance in dying.
Miguel Carrasquillo, 35, professional chef who was diagnosed in 2012, has joined forces with Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life advocacy organization, to dispel the shame and stigma in the Latino community of talking about death and dying with dignity.
“It is a taboo about Latinos to talk about that option because people are scared of what other people are going to say,” he says in the video.
Only five states authorize medical aid in dying: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and California. In Carrasquillo's home state of Illinois as well as in Puerto Rico, where his family has been caring for him since the disease ended his ability to live independently, end-of-life options are not available.
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“Senator, I have a petition which is listen to myself the way I want to die,” he says in the video. “I had one thing that I was going to do before I was dying: It was to meet my nephew, Miguel Andrés. He was born three months ago. That’s it.”
Carrasquillo’s mother, Nisa Centeno, says the thought of losing her only son is unimaginable, but seeing him die slowly in unbearable pain is even worse.
Thanks to a bill inspired by Brittany Maynard, a terminally ill 29-year-old who moved to Oregon so she could receive physician-assisted end-of-life treatment, California passed the End of Life Option Act in Sept 2015.
In a video message to lawmakers recorded a few weeks before Maynard's death, she said, “No one should have to leave their home and community for peace of mind, to escape suffering and to plan for a gentle death.”
Carrasquillo says in the video, “Every day we have to deal with different symptoms: headaches, back pains, electric shock all over your body, convulsions, seizures. I want to die with a medication.”
He goes on, “The day of Miguel Carrasquillo is just only in the bed with the help of my mom. I'm not able to do anything. My memory is completely gone .... I want the option to choose how I want to die.”
"I've see him suffer," his mother says in the video. "I've seen him cry. I've seen him fall ... This is about the dignity of human beings, and, in this case, it's my son. That dignity must be respected until his final moment."
Compassion & Choices president Barbara Coombs Lee – an attorney who co-authored the Oregon law authorizing medical aid-in-dying after working as an emergency room and ICU nurse and physician's assistant for 25 years – told Latin Times, “Miguel’s tragic experience vividly illustrates the urgent need for end-of-life options in every community in our nation. Painful deaths know no boundaries. They respect no ethnic groups of religions.”