As more states consider laws legalizing assisted suicide, more people are coming forward with cautionary tales of why assisted suicide is not good for patients and society. One such story comes from Michigan, where Dr. Randy Hillard almost made a choice to end his life by assisted suicide when he thought he was terminally ill. That was eight years ago. Today he is alive and, because of his experience, he is a passionate advocate for patients.
Assisted suicide is not legal in Michigan, so when Hillard was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer in 2010 he began planning to travel to Switzerland to end his life, reports the Detroit Free Press. Immediately following the diagnosis, Hillard became obsessed with suicide and started planning his own funeral. He told the news outlet, “It was one rather pathetic way of asserting some control over my life. Cancer was going to kill me, and I did not intend to die yet.”
Switzerland is one of the most permissive nations in the world when it comes to assisted suicide, and people from around the world travel there to end their lives. Instead of making that lethal trip, Hillard chose to undergo targeted radiation and an experimental drug treatment that saved his life. He said, “I wake up every day shocked at how non-dead I am.”
His experience has made him passionate about encouraging patients to get a second opinion and consider viable experimental treatment options. If Hillard, himself a trained physician, almost lost the will to live in the face of a difficult illness, how much more will other people feel pressured to choose assisted suicide if it were more readily available? Hillard would have had to take an international flight before ending his life, but for cancer patients in states like Oregon, California, Vermont, Colorado, and Hawaii, assisted suicide is legal where they live.
In a photo accompanying Hillard’s story in the Detroit Free Press, Hillard is seen holding his three-year-old granddaughter, Remy. The picture captures how much is at stake for patients facing a difficult diagnosis. If Hillard had chosen to end his life in assisted suicide, his granddaughter would never have been able to meet him.