LAS VEGAS (FOX5) – A valley woman dying of a rare form of blood cancer is fighting for her right to die with dignity.
Hanna Olivas, 45, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in May 2017. With a prognosis of about a year left of her life, she wants her death to be on her own terms.
“When you get diagnosed with a terminal illness your whole perspective on life changes,” said Olivas. "I don't want to die. My heart and my mind are still in the battle. It's just I can't control what my body is doing."
An aid in dying bill, or "Right to Die" bill, would legalize assisted suicide in Nevada. It allows doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to adults who are terminally ill and have less than six months left to live. Nevada lawmakers heard a similar bill during the 2019 Legislative session but failed to take a vote on the measure.
There are eight states with aid in dying laws. The bill raised serious questions for Nevada lawmakers who were concerned about safeguards on the medication, the mental state of patients and the possibility of insurance companies denying coverage of care in favor of assisted suicide.
“You can experience depression at any point following your diagnosis not just when you’re requesting the lethal medication,” said one woman who testified against the passage of the bill in February. “If you look at Oregon less than 4 percent of patients are ever referred out for psychological evaluation and we’ll never know how many are actually depressed when they end up taking the medications.”
Olivas said she believes patients like her should have the option.
"I want to make sure that when I'm here and while I'm in control of my death so to speak on my terms,” said Olivas. “That I'm able to say goodbye to my kids, to my grand-kids, to my husband to my family while I'm still alert and not just a shell laying in a bed."
Legalizing a right to die law would make the underlying illness as the cause of death. Insurance companies would not be allowed to deny life insurance claims.
Once Olivas has less than six months to live, she and her family will move to California so she can end her life legally.
Until a death with dignity law is passed in Nevada or until she passes away, Olvias said she’ll continue her advocacy work for her fellow Nevadans.
“We're desperate for a cure but we're desperate for people to get involved,” said Olivas. “To be that voice for us when we can't and right now I can be that voice and that's what I'm going to do."