Stephanie’s Journey

“I can’t sit and watch that happen without having something to say about it, I can see solutions. It’s not easy, but life isn’t meant to be easy.”

Stephanie Packer, a 32-year old mother of four, diagnosed in 2012 with a terminal diagnosis, shares her reasons for opposing assisted suicide. Featuring Dr. Aaron Kheriaty.

When Stephanie Packer, a 32-year-old wife and mother of four, was told in 2012 that she had three years to live, the news didn’t sink in right away. It took a month for her to acknowledge that her days were numbered, and during that time many of her friends were unable to deal with the prognosis and deserted her.

Packer said she often feels alone, unwilling to burden her husband and family with her fears. “When you’re sick and dying, everyone around you is going through it, too,” she noted. “It’s a ripple effect that touches everyone around you, but you can’t let it consume you.”

She was diagnosed with scleroderma, a chronic connective tissue disease. Scleroderma affects each person differently; in her case, the disease has caused scar tissue to form in her lungs making it difficult for her to breathe. For the past month, she has taken all nutrients (TPN) through a PICC line because scar tissue from the disease has paralyzed her gastrointestinal tract, prohibiting anything by mouth except tiny sips of water.

Yet far from letting the terminal diagnosis define or defeat her, Packer has found new purpose in leading and participating in support groups for fellow scleroderma patients who are dealing with symptoms and effects of the difficult-to-diagnose disease. A former church youth minister, Packer also is actively working to combat California’s proposed End of Life Option Act, SB 128, introduced to the state legislature on Jan. 21. She speaks on media panels and at ethics conferences and tries to advocate for other dying patients.

Based on Oregon’s successfully enforced assisted-suicide law, the California legislation would permit physician-assisted suicide for terminal patients with 6 months or less to live. “Terminally ill people need to know they’re valuable and worthwhile,” Packer said.

“They think they will add value to their lives by taking their own lives, that ending their lives sooner is more dignified. But if they really value their lives and the lives of the people around them, they could entrust their doctors to care for them properly and treat their pain.”


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