Imagine being young, seemingly healthy and fit, and then suddenly finding out you have a terminal illness and will only live a maximum of two years. This happened to Western psychology professor Ethan Remmel in 2010 at age 40. On June 13, 2011, Remmel decided to end his life using a lethal dose of medication under Washington state’s Death with Dignity law, which was passed in 2008.
Remmel lived in Bellingham with his partner Grace Wang, an associate professor at Huxley College of the Environment, and his two sons, Seth and Miles. After feeling mild stomach pain before a trip to Mexico, Remmel sought medical attention when the pain increased. He was later diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer. He lived for about a year after his diagnosis.
Death and Dignity, an event put on by both the Associated Students Disability Outreach Center and the AS Social Issues Resource Center, will explore the history of lethal medication and discuss current issues related to the topic. The presentation takes place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 30, in Academic Instructional Center 304. Free tea and snacks will be provided.
“We want to promote students to think about [Death with Dignity] in a different mindset,” DOC Coordinator Brandi Ball said. “When they form an opinion, we want them to be very educated about it.”
To create that different mindset, Ball wants to disassociate committing suicide with choosing to take lethal medication, because the two are very different, she said.
Diana Ash, DOC support staff, said the first part of the presentation will look at the history of legally prescribed lethal medication, the Washington state Death with Dignity law and Remmel’s decision to end his life.
The presentation will also focus on lethal medication issues within Whatcom County, Ball said. Ball and AS Social Issues Resource Center Coordinator Saraswati Noel will present and discuss the demographic trends related to lethal medication use, showing which people use it the most and how common its use is nationwide.
After the presentation, Noel and Ball will facilitate a discussion about the issue, Noel said.
Noel and Ball want students to create an open dialogue about the issue rather than a debate. The event will encourage students to voice their opinions and personal experiences with lethal medication, Noel said.
Though the event was not planned in relation to Remmel’s death, Ball and Ash learned about his story when they began research for the presentation.
“Mentioning [Remmel] is something that brings this issue home,” Ball said.