Brittany's Bill (House Bill 2903)
What is Brittany's Bill?
HB 2903, Brittany's Bill is a new bill that was introduced in the 2019 Oregon Legislative Session. It's purpose is to expand the current Death with Dignity Law. The end result will be to change the eligibility of people who can take advantage of this choice. Currently, only patients diagnosed with a terminal illness and a life expectancy of six months are eligible. Brittany's Bill will expand the eligibility to any patient with an incurable disease or experiencing unbearable pain.
Why do we call it Brittany's Bill?
The director of End Choices, Bruce Yelle, was already hard at work educating Oregonians on the restrictions of the current Death with Dignity Law and advocating for expanding medically-assisted, end-of-life choices in our State. He was contacted by Michelle Olafson and Sheri Marchand, the twin sister and mother of Brittany Olafson. They wanted to assist End Choices based on their recent loss of Brittany. When an older person who has been suffering for years chooses to end their own life, most people have a lot of sympathy and empathy because of the person's conditions. The action is often considered “understandable.” However, even young people can be burdened by unbearable physical or mental pain and suffering due to an unrelenting disease process. Together, along with the support of many, we are doing the best we can at spreading the word and making sure that Brittany's story is not a story anyone else has to experience.
By: Michelle Olafson (Brittany's twin sister)
I often think about my twin sister, Brittany. Specifically, I think about what her purpose is in life. She suffered with epilepsy, daily seizures, broken and fractured bones from falling, holes in her tongue from biting down on it during seizures, daily severe migraines, side effects from medications and recently was diagnosed with a chromosome condition which is extremely rare where seizures and epilepsy are mere symptoms of this syndrome. Brittany was suffering, she was in constant pain and she had no hope. In fact, with each passing day she seemed to be deteriorating. More seizures, more bad days and losing her will to fight.
She was so miserable in fact that she had asked her team of doctors for death with dignity or assisted suicide, which is legal in Oregon. The doctors refused, stating that her condition was not terminal. So, she continued to live a life that she did not want to live. Imagine not only the physical pain, but the feeling of being mentally able to do things yet not physically able. Her condition prevented her from working, driving, having friends and living an average life. These are all things we take for granted.
On June 13, 2018 at the age of 27, Brittany had decided she had enough. She wrote her family loving notes, wrote down all her passwords, thoughtfully picked a clean place to do it in, called to apologize and pulled the trigger. She did not die instantly. My mother rushed home after this phone call and found her suffering, gasping for air. She died before any help could arrive.
No one should have to be in such insurmountable pain that they must resort to the brutality of shooting themselves. As a family, we had all talked about her plea for doctor assisted suicide or death with dignity. There is never a “good way” to lose someone you love. Selfishly, I wanted my sister to live forever. But she did not want to. Her suffering was too great. Brittany was an intelligent, sincere, loving beam of light and instead of passing peacefully, surrounded by loved ones, she died with fear in her heart with nothing but her persistent anguish to console her.
Brittany is gone but there are others out there going through this same battle. Oregon was one of the first states to support the Death with Dignity Law, however there are gaps that need to be filled. The research I have done thus far has lead me to a non-profit called End Choices. Their main purpose is to educate Oregonians about these gaps and advocate for more compassionate choices for suffering individuals. For Brittany, I will be a supporter. For Brittany, I will share her story so that others understand her pain and the control that every individual should have when it comes to our deaths. For Brittany, I will work so that others will have compassionate choices that Brittany did not.
There are things you can do to help in this effort. Visit the End Choices Social Media pages, like them, follow them, donate if you can and share this story to start a conversation.
For Brittany’s purpose.