“A Compassionate Option”: Maria Ulloa Otero’s Story

Death did not scare my suegro (father-in-law), Pablo. His worst fear was the brutal way that cancer was going to end his life. My suegro was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in February 2018, just before we celebrated his 79th birthday. Unfortunately, the cancer had already spread to his bones.

Pablo died March 8 after suffering extreme bone and back pain, difficulty walking, incontinence and weakness throughout his frail body. A devout Catholic, he was grounded in his faith to the last moments of his life, but he wanted to die peacefully without needlessly suffering.

“This is not living,” he said. “Please give me something to stop the pain and to end my suffering.”

I strongly believe New Mexicans should have the option, in consultation with their families, doctors and faith leaders, of medical aid-in-dying. As a minority-majority state, New Mexico has a long tradition of respecting all people in our state, our families, our young people, and our elders.

Maria Otero with her father

I understand this end-of-life care option may not be for everyone. As a Catholic who respects other people’s faiths, I believe that until one walks in another person’s shoes, it’s wrong for anyone to stand in the way of this compassionate option being available for someone else.

Today, I honor my suegro’s life to support his desire for anyone facing a terminal illness to have this end-of-life care option. I urge my Hispanic brothers and sisters to join me in supporting this legislation, so terminally-ill New Mexicans don’t have to suffer and die painfully the way my suegro did.

A version of this story appeared in the guest column section of the Albuquerque Journal on May 13, 2018.

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