PALLIATIVE HANDS (copy)

A palliative care unit nurse holds a patient's hand at UW Hospital in Madison.

As more and more states consider passing assisted suicide policy, it is important for Americans to realize that this dangerous policy puts vulnerable lives, like mine and my children’s, at risk.

In 2012, I was facing what appeared to be a hopeless situation. In spite of pursuing a decade’s worth of surgical and pharmaceutical interventions, my health had deteriorated to the point that we were told, “there is nothing more we can do for you.”

I was at home, bedridden, on several pain medications and there was every indication that I was dying. I also had lost the will to live. I told my husband, “I know God can heal me, and so why doesn’t He? I cannot live like this, in so much pain. It’s unbearable, wanting to die but not able to do so.”

If there had been a legal way to die at that juncture, I would have readily taken it. There were feelings of despair created by my diagnosed diseases as well as by those symptoms that were as yet undiagnosed. The effects of the medication and my bewilderment over the inability of my doctors to tangibly fix anything overwhelmed my soul.

My case is not unique. Depression very often affects people when they are facing serious illness. Nothing in assisted suicide laws or proposals effectively guards against a depressed person getting hold of lethal drugs. A study in the British Medical Journal revealed that some depressed patients from Oregon who requested assisted suicide drugs received them and died after using them. I had the support of my family and my husband during those dark moments, but others who are going through a similar medical crisis may feel hopeless and have no support. They may feel as though assisted suicide is the only option.

Later in 2012, I was admitted to a functional medical facility in Mexico for a few weeks. Their approach was to employ traditional and alternative medicine. I recovered a considerable measure of health. While my autoimmune diseases and other physical ailments haven’t been cured, the inflammation levels are lower, so I am able to live well in spite of them.

I was and still am grateful for the unexpected time I have had, and I resolved to use it help others who face serious illness to live well, too. For the past seven years, my husband and I have cared for nine foster/adopted children, four of them with a life-limiting/terminal prognosis. Two of our children have died after receiving the best care possible, as well as the love and nurture they deserved. They outlived their predicted lifespan and thrived, even though their lives were short. We currently have two children on hospice care. They are fed, held, loved and given appropriate doses of medication to help them live as well as possible until they die naturally. None of this would have been possible if assisted suicide was an option for me in 2012.

When facing serious illness, not even the best doctors can tell how much time a person has left or what life has in store for them. I encourage those facing difficult prognoses to hold onto hope and let life continue to its natural end. And caretakers of the sick and suffering should focus on comforting interventions that leave everyone with a sense of well-being — rather than hastening death. Once society decides that it is OK for someone to choose to prematurely end their life with lethal drugs, it will be easy to conclude that some people’s lives — like our children in hospice care — are not worth living.

I will fight until my last breath for the children entrusted to my husband and me, and we will give them the love and care they deserve for as long as they have on this earth. And I pray, especially for their sake and those like them, that the United States will resist the push to legalize assisted suicide, because everyone is worth fighting for.

Cori Salchert lives in Sheboygan.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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