When Bob Stone, 69, was told he had two years left to live, he wasn’t afraid of dying. Instead, he feared his terminal cancer would eliminate his ability to enjoy the final days of life.
So he took his life into his own hands and decided when he wanted to die.
His ex-wife, Roberta Stone sat beside him and watched as he mixed applesauce with the prescribed “powdered secobarbital, a powerful sedative that is fatal in high doses.” It was bitter, and he joked that “next time he’d mix it with pudding” instead.
Though Roberta and Bob had divorced five years prior, they remained close. She promised him she’d spend his last day with him.
And she did. After Bob ate the fatal mixture, the couple crawled into bed and held each other until Bob stopped breathing.FlickrCC/Rick Kimpel
Bob is one of the 111 terminally ill patients who has taken advantage of California’s newly legalized ‘right to die’ law. California has joined the other few states that recognize death with dignity, a motion to provide an option for dying individuals.
There is much debate surrounding these laws. While some believe that death with dignity is a humane option to end suffering, others believe it could be the start of a dangerous trend.
Roberta, however, said that she was grateful that Bob didn’t have to suffer. She told LA Times that her brother died painfully and slowly over the course of six weeks as he suffered from Parkinson’s. Bob said his family members endured the same fate, spending their final days in a hospital.
Who wants to die like that?
He told the LA Times:
“My parents didn’t have that control, my uncle didn’t have that control. This is comforting to me.”
Bob was told that his treatments had stopped working and that he had less than three months to live.
Dying with dignity is about control, rather than a desire to die. Dr. Neil Wenger of the UCLA Health Ethics Center said:
“These patients do not want to die. These patients just want to control how they die when they absolutely must.”
Oftentimes patients will ask for a prescription they’ll never pick up. It’s about having a choice. Having a conversation about end-of-life options allows patients to put their business in order, to tie up loose ends that may not have been rectified otherwise. The conversations force people to come to terms with death.FlickrCC/mrhayata
Bob had many things he wanted to accomplish before he died. According to LA Times, he was a humanitarian, dedicating his career to helping the homeless. He traveled to Asia and said goodbyes to old friends. When he became weary, and his number of productive hours diminished, Bob set a date. September 10.
When he told Roberta, her response was pride:
“Bob had time to come to terms with it. And I felt proud of Bob that … he knew what he wanted to do.”
When they lay in bed together for his final minutes, Roberta worried when Bob told her the medicine was working. He soothed her concerns and said:
“No, it’s good. It’s good.”