Alan Alberts is a harbinger of our culture’s changing relationship with death and dying.
He chose elective death through Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED) rather
than suffering the disassociated life of Alzheimer’s. His wife, Phyllis Shacter, intimately
participated in Alan’s death. Together, they embody the emerging paradigm of couples,
families and friends embracing individual death as a shared experience through which all,
the living and the dead, are united in a heightened awareness of life, love and one another.
In this first of two articles, Phyllis tells Alan’s story through conversations they held until
Alzheimer’s silenced his voice. In our next volume, we will continue with Phyllis’ assimilation
of her experience; and her emergence from grief as a renowned advocate for VSED.
All beliefs are
If you change
you can change
This is a story
about how I
beliefs to heal
the fear of dying.
Love is the
meaning of life.
Phyllis: After the diagnosis, Alan and I went into
Alzheimer's denial. We didn't talk about it. When
Alzheimer's became unmistakably evident, We held
one another and cried for a week. Soon after, we began
our conversation about dying. Alan’s mother died after
suffering Alzheimer’s for ten years. He did not want to
die in self-oblivion. We thought very seriously about
using the Death with Dignity prescription1 but doing so
for Alzheimer's would have made me an accomplice to
murder. Alan had the Death With Dignity prescription
from a previous bout with cancer. The notion of Alan
being here and then being gone in ten minutes was
horrifying. I couldn't imagine being able to withstand
that kind of shock. I needed support. I contacted End of
Life Washington. A counselor introduced me to VSED.
I downloaded and printed an article on VSED by
Thaddeus Pope and Lindsay Anderson.2 After reading
the article Alan said, "I've decided this is what I am
going to do. I am going to VSED.” This was six months
before his death.
I told Alan on two occasions that I regretted we could
not use the Death with Dignity prescription. Both times
he said, "I want to have an organic, conscious death.” He
wanted his body to break down as it happens during a
normal death, as opposed to a sudden death.
VOLUME I | 71