FARGO — I applaud Fargo’s Mark Schneider for his courage in seeking a death with dignity law in North Dakota. Schneider is dying from cancer, and seeking to avoid needless suffering for him and other terminally ill people. Nine states and Washington, D.C., have such laws.
In the Minnesota Legislature, lawmakers will be debating the End-of-Life-Option Act. A patient who has less than six months to live, has been examined by at least two physicians, and is determined to have a sound mind, could choose to take medication to end his or her life.
To understand why this legislation is badly needed, all you have to do is hear the story of Monica Schliep and Carrie Framsted of Grand Marais, Minn. Monica was a middle school teacher, a star runner and tennis champion. Monica and Carrie met in 2000, started dating in 2008, and got married in 2014.
“Monica was funny, loving and compassionate,” Carrie said. “She was very concerned about other people. She put everybody else first. I was so grateful we found each other and shared so many things in common.”
In 2019, Monica, 55, started experiencing severe back pain. So, in June of that year Monica went to see a doctor. The diagnosis was stunning. Monica had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. It was inoperable. The cancer had spread to her liver. She was dying.
“I was in total shock,” Carrie said. “I couldn’t believe this young healthy woman was given this diagnosis, with no option for treatment. We did a lot of crying and hugging. We tried to figure out how much longer we have together.”
Monica decided to take chemotherapy in an effort to extend her life for as long as possible. Monica and Carrie went back and forth between Rochester and Grand Marais for treatment. When in Rochester, they stayed with Monica’s father.
The chemotherapy didn’t help. Monica became much sicker. She had a hard time breathing, was very weak, started hallucinating, lost a lot of weight, and lost her hair. The constant pain in her abdomen and back was brutal.
“Monica said, ‘I just want to go. I just want to end this,’” Carrie said.
By February of last year, Monica couldn’t walk and was confined to a bed.
“Watching the love of my life suffer was horrible," Carrie said. “Her agony was terrible to witness. I felt helpless and hopeless. All we could do is wait day after day for her to die.”
Monica died on February 15, 2020, just eight months after her diagnosis.
There are far too many stories like the one of Monica and Carrie. What’s the point of forcing a miserable terminally ill person to stay alive for a few extra weeks? It’s time to give people a choice to end the needless suffering.
“I don’t want people to suffer like Monica did,” Carrie said. “We need control over our lives that have been taken over by doctors, tests, treatment, sickness, pain, and loss of self. I wish Monica had the opportunity to decide when enough was enough.”
Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director. Email email@example.com