Choosing Death With Dignity

Pam Wald Remembers Her Husband's Final Days

November 16, 2014

In 2005, Ben and Pam Wald thought Ben had won his battle with colon cancer. But in 2011, Ben learned that the cancer had metastasized to his lungs. Talking to Sara Nics, Pam says that — even then — they did not give up hope. “We’re both idealistic, optimistic people, and we said, ‘Alright, let’s see what we can do to fight this.’”

But after a rapid decline in his heath, Ben — a resident of Oregon, the first state to pass a Death with Dignity Act — decided he wanted to consider speeding up the his life. Pam recalls the moment when they first discussed this option.


He was down to 118 pounds. He lost his voice, he could just whisper. It had spread to his bones and so he’s under incredible pain and could not get comfortable at all. No appetite. No energy. One night he woke me up in the middle of the night. I was married to a very, very honest man. And he said, ‘Pam, we just need to talk…I just don’t want to keep living like this. And I would like to explore Oregon’s death with dignity law.’

Pam called the non-profit organization Compassion & Choices to better understand how to help Ben make his own decision to hasten the end his life. She says, “It was the most difficult call I ever had to make. Because what I was really doing was calling to ensure my husband would be able to die in a peaceful manner.”

Compassion & Choices volunteers helped with the details and the paperwork, but Pam says they also reminded her of what was most important. “Jane said to me, ‘Pam, your job right now is just to keep taking care of Ben.’ And I really needed to hear that.”

You can hear Pam and Ben's story here, or listen to the extended interview.