Deb Brockel, 60, formerly of Fargo, died recently. It wasn’t from coronavirus, although if she was exposed to that, the virus almost certainly would have killed her. It was a case of death with dignity.
Deb suffered from COPD. She had very small lung capacity, difficulty breathing, her heart was giving out, and frequently suffered from pneumonia. In December, she was told she had six months to live, and went on hospice care. She was suffocating to death.
Deb and her husband of 31 years, Bob, met at the Star Lite Drive-In movie theater in Fargo. Deb was a student at Fargo South High, Bob attended West Fargo High. They moved to Fort Collins, Colo., in 2010. Colorado is one of eight states along with Washington, D.C., that allow some terminally ill patients to take medication to end their lives, to prevent further suffering. Since the law went into effect in Colorado in 2017, more than 250 patients have taken aid-in-dying medication.
Deb was miserable and asked her doctor if she could receive the necessary prescription. By law, she was then examined by two other doctors to determine if she was terminally ill, and then examined to make sure she was mentally competent to make her own decisions and able to take her own medication. The doctors concluded that Deb qualified for aid-in-dying medication.
“Her mother in Fargo died a terrible death,” Bob said. “She suffered and the family went through hell. Deb didn’t want to die that way. She didn’t want to put the family and others through that and have them watch it.”
“She said I don’t want to suffocate,” Deb’s daughter, Jenni, said. “She said she wanted to die on her terms and not see us suffer.”
So, the day came, and Deb’s family was with her when she took the medication in her home.
“She said I love you, I’m proud of you, and thank you for being with me,” a tearful Jenni said. “It was peaceful. It was beautiful. She just looked like she was going to sleep and then it was over.”
“I completely support her decision,” Bob said. “She was so miserable. There was no quality of life. I miss her terribly and wish she was still here, but it was for the best.”
“I’m proud of her,” Jenni said. “I think she’s a pioneer. She knew what she wanted. She was just so brave.”
It’s time to give the people of North Dakota, Minnesota and 40 other states the same choice that Deb Brockel had. There’s no point in forcing a miserably terminally ill patient to stay alive for a few extra weeks, with helpless family members watching. It’s time to end the suffering.
“My mom was lucky to make this choice,” Jenni said. “I hope everyone has the ability to make that same choice.”
“I’m glad we had that choice,” Bob said. “The alternative is to watch someone suffer. I don’t wish that on anybody.”
Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director in Fargo. Email email@example.com