The weekend sun has melted the snow and is encouraging the green grass. Fish are swimming lazily around the large backyard koi pond at his Elgin home. And Ralph McFadden looks good and feels good.
None of which is ideal for a serious column about the suburban Compassion & Choices group he’s working with to pass a “medical aid in dying” law in Illinois.
“For your interview, I really ought to be dying,” McFadden, 87, says. “But I guess I will hold off on that for a while.”
McFadden, a former pastor and hospice chaplain, says he’s pretty sure there will come a day when his multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer that manifests in the bones and killed his father, will cause such distress and pain that he’ll want to end his life. He’s seen dozens of people die in agony during his career.
“Hospice was a huge point of my learning curve,” says McFadden, who got his chaplaincy training at Rush Medical Center in Chicago and worked as a hospice chaplain in Colorado and in the Northwest suburbs. “It was not unusual for me to see an old man sitting in a wheelchair, unable to talk, wearing a diaper, needing someone to feed him. I didn’t want that.”
He remembers a patient at a hospice in Denver, who was angry at God “because she couldn’t die.”
“It made me think: ‘How do I want to die?'” more at link