Stephanie Packer says life is worth living, even with her terminal illness — and she wants to stop assisted suicide legislation in California.
Stephanie, a Catholic mother of four, prays that voters do the right thing, just like Connecticut did.
She was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease at age 29 — Brittany Maynard’s age when she decided to kill herself rather than live with brain cancer. Doctors gave her three years to live: Three years of constant fatigue and pain that becomes unbearable at times.
She worries about the pain — and the effect it has on her children. “For my kids, I need to be able to control the pain because that’s what concerns them the most,” she told NPR.
She says she understands why people in her situation are tempted to commit suicide.
“Wanting the pain to stop, wanting the humiliating side effects to go away — that’s absolutely natural,” Packer said. “But I don’t get to that point of wanting to end it all, because I have been given the tools to understand that today is a horrible day, but tomorrow doesn’t have to be.”
Her husband Brian says Church teaching informs their decision.
“We’re a faith-based family,” he told NPR. “God put us here on earth and only God can take us away. And he has a master plan for us, and if suffering is part of that plan, which it seems to be, then so be it.”
The two are campaigning against SB 128 in California — the so-called End of Life Option Act would legalize suicide drugs.
The Packers believe that the act is too open to abuse. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has launched a website, AHardPill.org, featuring their slogan: “SB 128: A Hard Pill to Swallow.”
It argues that the legislation divides family members when they most need one another and gives life-or-death power to those who will benefit from a patient’s death.
“Wherever suicide for the infirm and disabled is legal, it begins as one option among many, but quickly becomes the preferred option. Why? Because suicide is the cheapest option,” says the website.
It adds: “Who stands to benefit most when patients hasten their own deaths? The insurance companies, which are trying to maximize profits. The state, which is trying to minimize expense. The medical institutions, which are trying to make the most of limited resources.”
Stephanie told NPR that she hopes other terminally ill people will choose pain-relief therapies and hospice care instead of suicide.
“Death can be beautiful and peaceful,” she said. “It’s a natural process that should be allowed to happen on its own.”
Her husband has moved the family into an apartment and is working as a weekend handyman to free up time to spend with Stephanie and the children.
He says life is good.
“I have four beautiful children. I get to spend so much more time with them than most head of households,” he told NPR. “I get to spend more time with my wife than most husbands do.”
His wife has lived beyond the three years doctors gave her and said she considers every day a blessing.
“I know eventually that my lungs are going to give out, which will make my heart give out,” Stephanie told NPR. “And I know that’s going to happen sooner than I would like — sooner than my family would like. But I’m not making that my focus. My focus is today.”
Click here for a GoFundMe site in support of the Packer family.