She Wanted to Take Her Own Life in an Assisted Suicide, But Something Changed Her Mind

National   |   Sarah Zagorski   |   May 22, 2015   |   10:00AM   |   Washington, DC

In a recent article in The Daily Signal, author Kelsey Harkness shares the story of Jeanette Hall, an Oregon resident who was terminally ill and wanted to take advantage of the state’s assisted suicide law. When Oregon’s assisted suicide law was on the ballot in 1994, Jeanette supported the measure because she didn’t want people to suffer. However, now her opinion on assisted suicide is totally different.

At the age of 55, Jeanette was told that she had cancer and needed chemotherapy and radiation to fight the disease. She was also told she could take a fatal dose of phenobarbital to end her own life since without treatment she had six months to a year to live. She said, “I was calling it over. I wasn’t going to do chemo. When I heard what might take place in radiation … I wasn’t going to do it. I looked for the easy way out.”

After she made her decision, her doctor, Dr. Kenneth Stevens, tried to change her mind. He said, “She was terminal because she was refusing treatment. It’s like a person could be considered terminal if they’re not taking [their] insulin or [other] medications.”

He added, “I didn’t go into medicine to kill people. When a doctor writes a prescription, a prescription is a written order. If he’s writing a prescription for lethal drugs, he’s writing a prescription to kill the person.”

Thankfully, Jeanette’s doctor was able to persuade her to fight for her life and today she’s grateful to be alive. In a 2012 affidavit, she said, “I wanted to do our law and I wanted [my doctor] to help me.  Instead, he encouraged me to not give up and ultimately I decided to fight the cancer.  I had both chemotherapy and radiation.“

Here’s more on what convinced Jeanette to choose life:

After multiple phone calls and doctors appointments, Stevens said something that changed her mind. Stevens learned that Hall had a son, Scott Walden, who was living in Riley, Ore., training to be a state trooper. At the time, Walden didn’t even know his mom had cancer—let alone that she was asking her doctor to prescribe her a lethal dose of life-ending drugs.

“I didn’t even know about it,” Walden told The Daily Signal. “That would have been heartbreaking for me and would add sorrow upon sorrow that I wasn’t there at the end.”

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Stevens, in a last ditch effort to convince Hall against death, asked her: “Wouldn’t you like to see him graduate? Wouldn’t you like to see him get married?”

“That’s what kept me back. That one sentence,” Hall said. “If you hadn’t said that, I wouldn’t be here.”

Fifteen years later, Hall is now cured of cancer and celebrating her 70th birthday with her son—who has since graduated from the police academy but has yet to get married. “I’m still working on [it],” said Walden, with a chuckle. “I haven’t given up.”

As for the debate over whether more states should adopt physician-assisted laws, Hall says she doesn’t have the answers.

“[I] just [have] a story,” she said. “My story.”

Watch the video below to learn more about Hall’s life-changing journey.