Widow shares story of husband’s decision to end his own suffering

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copyright the Chronicle September 20, 2017


by Tena Starr


EAST CHARLESTON — Eric Stevens was 67 years old last year in July when his son-in-law carried him out to the porch, where, surrounded by his immediate family, he ate a pudding-like mixture of Seconal and maple syrup. Soon, possibly within minutes, he was dead.

Mr. Stevens was a musician and an avid outdoorsman. In a photo taken less than two weeks before his death, he looks young for 67, tanned and robust, his dark eyes looking into the camera in the straightforward manner he was known for.

But he was far from robust by then. He had an advanced case of multiple systems atrophy (MSA), a rare neurological disease.  It’s similar to Parkinson’s, but crueler.  Parkinson’s victims often develop dementia towards the end.  Those who suffer from MSA do not.  Their bodies shut down bit by bit, but the brain is acutely aware of every bodily failure, every indignity, of the next dreadful step in the progression of their fatal disease.

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