In Memory

Ray G. Perman

Ray G. Perman

Russ Porterfield advises: Ray passed away in his home in Piedmont yesterday (2/5/2017). I doubt there was anybody in our class who didn't know him. His ability to drum a beat for the marching band will always be left in my mind. He was the best man at my wedding and always a friend. I'll miss his humor and strong sense of community. You made a difference, my friend. 

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There hav been sveral articles written about Ray. The following is from the June 5, 2017 Mercury News:

It’s been nearly a year since California began allowing terminally ill residents to end their lives with the help of a physician. And for Ray Perman, the right-to-die law worked exactly as lawmakers intended.

On Feb. 4, as his family gathered around his bed, the 64-year-old Piedmont resident ingested a lethal dose of sedatives and passed away peacefully — in his own home, on his own terms — after years of battling cancer.

Other terminal patients have been known to add a flourish to their final moments of life: a last cigarette, a shot of vodka, a favorite pet curled up with them in bed.

But for many other Californians, the End of Life Option Act — which took effect June 9, 2016 — has led to a desperate race against time. Frustrated and unable to care for themselves, these terminal patients have frantically searched to find the required two physicians they must work with to terminate their lives.

Add in the law’s mandated 15-day waiting period between the two oral requests they must make to the two doctors for the medication and it’s often too late to follow through with their plans.

For many that means a painful death. Others slip into a coma or become too disoriented to use the law — which requires that people be mentally competent when they take the medication.

“At this stage in the law, it’s a little bit of a hard road,’’ said Judith Geisser, a retired attorney who lives in Oakland.

Geisser watched as her dying brother’s oncologists — one in Santa Rosa who had treated him for colorectal cancer, another in San Francisco who had diagnosed his subsequent brain cancer — politely declined to help him die, or even refer him to colleagues who would.

As is the case in five other states with aid-in-dying laws, California doctors, hospitals and health care systems are not obligated to participate.

Details about the number of participating California doctors and patients will be released at month’s end, when the state publishes its first mandated annual report. But based on Oregon’s experience with its two-decade-old law, Compassion & Choices has predicted that about 1,500 lethal prescriptions would be written in California during the law’s first year — and about two-thirds of the medications would actually be ingested.

The group last week pointed to anecdotal evidence from its Doc2Doc program — which puts California doctors in touch with their counterparts in states where right-to-die laws have been in place for a long time — that shows at least 504 terminally ill adults in California received prescriptions since last June. But the group does not know how many of them actually ingested the drugs — which range from Seconal, a sedative that costs around $3,500 per prescribed dose, to a combination of a sedative and a drug that stops the heart, for about $600.

Geisser offers this advice to anyone who wants to take advantage of the law: Start your search for the two physicians sooner rather than later.

“When you’re not healthy, and not at your best, that’s not the time to manage the path through this law,’’ said Geisser, who was forced to scramble to find a physician to help her 67-year-old brother Pat fulfill his last wish.

Through a friend of a friend, she found Dr. Lonny Shavelson, a Berkeley-based primary care doctor who now specializes in helping patients access the law.

Shavelson is the Bay Area’s best-known aid-in-dying practitioner — and no doubt its busiest. In the last year, he has logged 318 inquiries from patients hoping to use the law, dozens of whom lived  too far away for him to help. Sixty-four of the people whom he screened qualified under the law, so he took on their care.

Thirty-seven of those have ingested the lethal doses so far. But 27 of Shavelson’s patients died before finalizing a date to die or after losing mental capacity during the 15-day waiting period and thus becoming ineligible to take advantage of the law.

Geisser’s brother, a plumber, died on May 12 with Shavelson’s assistance in Gualala in Mendocino County, where he had lived most of his life.

Dr. Kathryn Shade, a Los Gatos-based primary care physician who contacted Shavelson last June to learn how she could help terminally ill individuals in the South Bay, said her patients constantly talk about their struggle to find a doctor willing to help.

“It’s surprised me just how hard it is for people in the medical community to have a coordinated way to quickly get patients to those doctors who do this,’’ Shade said.

Opponents of the law, including Californians Against Assisted Suicide, have watched its implementation with dread and cite a litany of concerns.

“It’s bad policy,’’ said the group’s spokesman, Tim Rosales.

He said there are too many loopholes in the law, including the fact that the law doesn’t require those patients receiving lethal prescriptions to get any type of counseling beforehand from a mental health professional. In addition, he said, “there’s no requirement that somebody who stood to gain financially from that individual’s passing could not be involved in the process.’’

Those were the furthest thoughts from the mind of Andrea Witherell, Ray Perman’s 25-year-old daughter, as she watched her father begin to suffer again last summer from another bout of cancer that was first detected in 2012.

In September, after her wedding — which her father had managed to attend despite his weakened health — his Kaiser Permanente doctor told him nothing more could be done to stop the disease.

“That’s when he said, ‘Now I want to go for the end-of-life option,'” she recalled.

When his last day arrived, she recalled haltingly, he said his goodbyes to his family and talked about how meaningful it was to have such a law available to him.

“It’s kind of difficult to explain,’’ Witherell said in retrospect. “He did not want to die or throw in the towel. The cards he was dealt he played the best he could. But there were no options left. Science was not going to fix him.’’

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02/07/17 06:54 AM #1    

Martha E. Morgan

I did not know Ray very well in high school but, I do remember him as a nice guy with a great smile and very friendly when you talked with him he will be missed. 

02/07/17 12:14 PM #2    

Charles Rodgers

I hope that when my time comes, I can stand up and face death the way that Ray did. I had prostate cancer 4 yrs. ago, but I am cancer free now. Please guys, do not listen to the government news bulletins, GET YOUR PSA  CHECKED!!! RIP Ray.


02/07/17 02:18 PM #3    

George (Thomas) Piffero (Cummins)

So sad to hear. I haven't seen Ray since Paly, but even though we run in different circles I remember Ray as quite the gentleman. Ray and I go as far back as Hoover and then Jordan where we began speaking occasionalyl of flying and getting jobs in Aviation field. Our families knew each other through the American Aviation Association which gave us a common interest. After Paly I lost connections with Ray, but I am gald to read that Ray fulfilled his dreams of flying. My sincere condolences to his loved ones, may the fond memories you share with, and of him, help ease the pain of his departure. 

George Cummins (aka;Tom Piffero)

02/07/17 05:36 PM #4    

Sarah McKenna (Broadbent)

Spoke to Ray last week. I'd forgotten some details about our connection that he remembered like it was yesterday. We reminised about the old days, about old friends, about old flames, about music. I will miss you, Ray. Wish we had connected sooner. 

02/08/17 08:49 AM #5    

Carolyn Sorensen (Balling)

Because it's a small world, it turned out that Ray was married to a high school (not Paly!) friend of my husband's.  Roseanne has told us that Ray's memorial will take place this Friday, February 10 at 4:00pm at Piedmont Community Church, 400 HIghland Ave., Piedmont 94611.  All are welcome.  Please share this message with others you know who cared for Ray.  We'll be there for sure to share in memories of Ray.


02/08/17 01:02 PM #6    

Luise Reith (Schofield)

To All please read the KQED link.  Never knew Ray in high school but after reading his article I found a truly beautiful piece of work please read .  Rest in peace Ray 

03/07/17 09:25 PM #7    

Leslie J. Rice (Wall)

So sad to hear this. I went to school with Ray at Hoover and Jordan before Paly, and remember him as a funny and really nice guy. Loved the article about his brave decision. Rest in peace, Ray

03/08/17 04:52 PM #8    

Peter Bogardus

What a brave soul.  Ray truly was a super nice guy.  To all our friends that left too soon.  May peace be with the family and friends, this day and always.

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