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Cazenovia Forum features Rollin lecture

Acclaimed author spoke about final life choices

Betty Rollin speaks to audience members during the Cazenovia Forum sponsored lecture, Oct. 14 in Catherine Cummings Theatre.

Betty Rollin speaks to audience members during the Cazenovia Forum sponsored lecture, Oct. 14 in Catherine Cummings Theatre. Barbara Bartlett

— On Oct. 14, speaker Betty Rollin visited the Catherine Cummings Theatre in Cazenovia to discuss “end of life choices” as part of the Cazenovia Forum lecture series.

Rollin, recipient of the DuPont and Emmy awards, and former NBC correspondent, focuses primarily on human interest stories. Two of her books, “First, You Cry,” and “Last Wish,” focus on her struggles with breast cancer and her mother’s terminal disease respectively, and both have been made into movies. She is currently a correspondent for PBS’ Religion and Ethics Newsweekly Segment.

Rollin began the discussion by telling the audience about her mother. At the age of 74, Rollin’s mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

After it seemed that the cancer had gone into remission, it came back again “hard and mean,” and this time her mother had had enough.

Rollin read the audience a quote from her mother: “I’ve had a wonderful life but now it is over.” The daily struggle, pain, and hopelessness were overwhelming to her mother, and Rollin understood that her wish to die was not a passing whim.

About 20 years ago, when Rollin faced this obstacle with her mother, there was no precedent for mentally sound patients with a terminal illness who wanted to end their lives. After a difficult search, Rollin and her husband found a solution.

Knowing she had an option, Rollin’s mother “was herself again”; having the drug gave her a sense of control. As Rollin told the audience, “she died graciously and gratefully, and we were grateful too.”

Twenty years after her experience with her mother, Rollin works with Death with Dignity, a group that tries to change the laws surrounding physician assisted suicide.

Currently there are only two states, Washington and Oregon that have passed laws that allow this act. Massachusetts is currently in the decision process. The main opposition stems mostly from the Catholic Church, which condemns any voluntary taking of human life, with Rollin claiming that this criticism was not shared by all individual members of the Church.

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