My name is Elizabeth Bakewicz, and I am a burden. And the push to legalize assisted suicide tells me that I am a burden not worth bearing. I have terminal brain cancer, epilepsy, and Graves’ disease. But I am more than my suffering. I am a mother, a wife and an accomplished, competent woman.
Each day, I start my morning with a seizure or two before getting out of bed. This is followed by swallowing multiple prescription medications, as well as supplements and pain relievers. I usually have one more seizure before my daughter leaves for school at 9 a.m.
In 2008, following months of debilitating headaches, a tumor was found in the left frontal lobe of my brain. One year later, the tumor was diagnosed as Grade III Anaplastic Astrocytoma – cancer. Seizures began and have not stopped. Pain, extreme lethargy and deep sorrow followed. Chemotherapy, full brain radiation, and a litany of medication ensued.
My prognosis in 2009 gave me three to five years to live. I am in year seven. However, physician assisted suicide tells me that I am nothing more than this list of burdens. My terminal illness of cancer and yes, epilepsy and perhaps, Graves disease, provide me with the “opportunity” to end my life. But rather than dignity in death, this bill tells people with terminal illness that they are a burden not worth bearing.
Simply put, legalized assisted suicide does not give people a choice to die with dignity.
For my family, just the past 18 months of my life have led to hundreds of thousands of dollars in healthcare bills. I cannot drive and require assistance in the regular activities of life. My seven-year-old daughter must care for me when I seize and fall to the ground. I am a burden to my family.
I am also a burden to the government. Instead of contributing to the general welfare of the state (I once hoped to be a public defender), I place a deep monetary burden on the government. I am a 35-year-old on social security disability and Medicare. I cannot pay back my government-issued student loans.
I am also a burden to myself. I am constantly concerned about my own welfare. I must nap every day to escape the fatigue and pain. I seize throughout the day, requiring medication and an implanted device to stay on my feet. I am no longer the independent, spirited, lively girl I remember. I burden myself. And yes, some days, I want to die.
Legalized assisted suicide demonstrates these burdens as clear as the words my doctor spoke telling me I had cancer. Yet I cannot advocate for its legalization. By refusing to accept physician assisted suicide, my life and others who suffer like me will be affirmed. We will be told we have meaning.
I believe we are all unique and unrepeatable people whose lives matter. I have a deep concern for those who cannot help themselves and have no voice on this issue. I have a great deal of help from family, friends, and the community. There are many people who suffer like I do who have no support system. I have good healthcare and insurance; many people do not. Who speaks for them? Please listen to me as I speak for them, those unique and unrepeatable people.
We become better people when we bear each other’s burdens, not when we bury people because they are burdens. I am more than a burden. I am a human being.