At the age of 27, Dr. Peg Sandeen faced an impossible request. Her husband, John, who was dying from HIV/AIDS, told Peg that he couldn’t stand the pain anymore and wanted her to help him end his life. It was the early 1990’s though and there was no legal avenue for Peg to help John in his wish to die with the dignity he had in life. Peg went on to get both a Master's and Ph.D. in social work. Throughout that time, the memory of John’s last wish motivated her to work towards changing the landscape for people facing the end of life. Dr. Sandeen is now the Executive Director of Death With Dignity, working in end-of-life advocacy and fighting for medical aid in dying laws across the U.S.
In our conversation we discuss:
- Meeting and falling in love with John
- Getting the news of John's HIV diagnosis
- How Hannah and John talked with their daughter Hannah about her father's illness
- The shame and stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS
- Caregiving for a dying husband as a young mother and wife
- The current state of right to die laws across the U.S.
- Moving from an intellectual to emotional understanding of grief
- Learning to support Hannah in her grief
Dr. Sandeen's HuffPost article: My Husband Asked Me to Help Him Die. I Couldn't Do It - and My Life Changed Forever
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Grief Out Loud is supported in part by the Chester Stephan Endowment Fund in loving memory by the estate of Theodore R. Stephan.