Speaker talks about making informed end-of-life decisions

April 23, 2015
Lisa Gigliotti speaks about end of life decisions.

Lisa Gigliotti speaks about end of life decisions.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

HAMLIN TWP. — While she was attending college, studying pre-med, Lisa Gigliotti was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis, so severe that she was restricted to a wheelchair. Two years later she was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a disease that attacks the muscles.

Gigliotti spoke Thursday, April 23, at the 2015 Focus on Life Benefit Dinner sponsored by the Mason County Right to Life at Lincoln Hills Golf Club.

She remembered her Italian grandmother’s words telling her to have “coraggio,” courage.

After feeling helpless, she decided to start fighting her illnesses.

In 1990, she said, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Also during that year, Michigan doctor, Jack Kevorkian started assisting people to kill themselves.

“As Kevorkian was having more and more victims, you started hearing the victims had common traits,” Gigliotti said. “They were all women. They were all vulnerable, they all had a mental condition and non of them had a terminal illness.”

By this time Gigliotti had become a lawyer. She wanted to do something to fight Kevorkian and to challenge other right-to-die advocates.

Gigliotti is an author, an attorney and an administrative law judge who has lived for more than 25 years with severe rheumatoid arthritis and serious myasthenia gravis. Through 11 major surgeries she has maintained a fulfilling and positive life. She has achieved successful careers as an administrative law judge, a policy advisor for the Michigan Senate and Governor, an advocate for people with disabilities and for improving end-of-life care, and is dedicated to helping others lead more fulfilling lives.

In pursuit of encouraging others, Gigliotti has written four books that describe her Italian-American upbringing and how Coraggio—courage—is the key to overcoming adversity and to achieving any endeavor.

Gigliotti talked about the misinformation that exists in the public about making end-of-life decisions. She said Michigan law allows for advanced directives, also known as durable power of attorney. She said Right to Life of Michigan provides paperwork for anyone to use in those cases.

“Why wait? Have these conversations now,” she said about talking about end-of-life, adding that no one really knows when they may face those issues.

She said society needs to have the courage to honor end-of-life decisions and to talk about the dangers of assisted suicide. 

“It’s not the compassionate thing to do,” she said about assisted suicide and how society should become educated about hospice and the role it plays for patients.