NPR Host: My Husband Starved Himself to Death

Tuesday, 08 Jul 2014 05:02 PM

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Diane Rehm says her husband John ended his own life after his Parkinson's disease became unbearable, and he could not get a doctor to help him do so.
The syndicated talk show host tells NBC News her husband of 54 years dehydrated himself after deciding he could not bear to live another day.
“He just kept getting weaker,” the NPR host tells NBC News. “We called in the doctor and John said to him: ‘I am ready today.’ He said ‘I can no longer use my legs, I can no longer use my arms, I can no longer feed myself.’ And knowing with Parkinson’s it is going to get worse rather than better, he said ‘I wanted to die.’”

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She says the doctor's response to his request surprised him.
 “The doctor said ‘I cannot do that legally, morally or ethically’,” Rehm says. “He said ‘I don’t disagree with your wish that you could die with the help of a physician but I cannot do it in the state of Maryland.’”
John Rehm had to deliberately die by dehydration, which took nine days.
“John said he felt betrayed,” Rehm says. He said, ‘I felt that when the time came, you would be able to help me.’”
The advocacy group Compassion & Choices, among others, has been fighting to allow individuals like John Rehm have the option of an assisted death. The group has called for "aid in dying" — allowing mentally competent, terminally ill adults to request life-ending medication from a doctor for a peaceful and painless death. It's legal in several states, but not Maryland.
John Rehm met the definition, says Diane Rehm.
“Both of us had agreed that when the time came, we would be there for each other in whatever way was necessary,” she says. “So when he made up his mind, that was it.”

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