Colleen Kegg hasn’t worked out the details of her exit plan yet. But about one thing, Kegg is clear: When she can no longer feed herself or go to the bathroom without assistance, she will take steps to end her life. A rare and incurable neurological disease is gradually stealing the things the 60-year-old Santa Barbara-area resident lives for, and she wishes a California physician could legally prescribe life-ending medication, as doctors can in Oregon, Washington and Montana. Instead, she’ll have to find another way.
“I know I can stop eating and drinking,” Kegg told me one evening in her sister’s home, her speech already slowed by corticobasal degeneration, a condition somewhat similar to Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
To Kegg and her family, it seems unjust that how she must die is dictated in part by law, and influenced by religious convictions and social mores she doesn’t share. Starving herself could make death drag out for a couple of weeks, while just north of the state border, people can say their goodbyes and leave on their terms, quickly, comfortably and peacefully.