In the face of death, Sandy Bush lived.

His greatest fear when he first found out that cancer was eating away his body was that he'd suffer a slow, painful death. The only way Sandy could overcome that fear was to know he could control his time of dying.

No doctor can prescribe death in the United States, except in Oregon. So Sandy had an out-of-state friend with a medical background purchase him a lethal pill concoction for less than $50.

The power to die gave Sandy great relief, allowing him to live the way he wanted to, right up until the end. He and Joann, his wife of 43 years, hit the road in their RV and traveled through New Mexico. But after attending a wedding, he started to show signs that the end was near.

Doctors at a hospital in Santa Fe wanted to check Sandy in, but Joann knew it was time to get him home to Denver.

Sandy and Joann's younger son had been in Japan, but he made it to Denver Saturday night, just in time to have dinner and see his father. Sandy went into a coma Sunday morning and was gone by noon.

"Look at the peace of mind it gave him and he didn't even use them," Joann said of the pills.

Sandy was born and died on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. He would've turned 63 next Monday.

Before Sandy died, he became an advocate and donor for the right-to-die movement; to learn more about this subject, check out this June article that featured him. In lieu of flowers, Sandy requested that donations be made to Compassion & Choices, a non-profit group that advocates for a patient's right to hasten death as opposed to undergoing unbearable suffering.

A bill in Vermont to establish an Oregon-style law allowing doctors to prescribe lethal medications to the terminally ill is still pending. That's not the case in Colorado. -- Luke Turf

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts