Sunset woman via Unsplash

Stephanie Packer has all the makings to join Brittany Maynard as a poster child for proposed right-to-die legislation in California.

The 32 year-old California native has been living in constant, sometimes excruciating pain for more than three years thanks to the terminal autoimmune disease scleroderma. The disease causes the hardening of the skin and sometimes other organs. Stephanie has it in her lungs.


She is on oxygen, can’t digest food properly, and is constantly fatigued.

Unfortunately for California lawmakers – and fortunately for us – physician-assisted suicide isn’t even on the table for Stephanie.

“Wanting the pain to stop, wanting the humiliating side effects to go away – that’s absolutely natural,” Stephanie said in an interview with NPR. “I absolutely have been there and I still get there some days. But I don’t get to that point of wanting to end it all, because I have been given the tools to understand that today is a horrible day, but tomorrow doesn’t have to be.”

What equipped Stephanie, her husband, and their four children to take on this life of suffering? Their Catholic faith.

“We’re a faith-based family,” Stephanie’s husband Brian said. ” God put us here on earth and only God can take us away. And he has a master plan for us, and if suffering is part of that plan, which it seems to be, then so be it.”

It certainly hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows since the Packer family entrusted themselves and Stephanie’s terminal diagnosis to God. Stephanie’s pain has only increased; over the past years she’s been diagnosed with several conditions linked to scleroderma. The family had to downsize their home when Brian traded his full-time job for part-time work so he could care for his wife and their children.

Stephanie said she has approached every day as a blessing since her diagnosis.


“I know eventually that my lungs are going to give out, which will make my heart give out,” she said. “And I know that’s going to happen sooner than I would like – sooner than my family would like. But I’m not making that my focus. My focus is today.”

Stephanie said she hopes other terminal patients will also choose to live each day of their natural lives. Even without their Catholic faith, Stephanie and Brian Packer said they would not support California’s proposed right-to-die legislation SB 128 because there is too much room for abuse.

“Death can be beautiful and peaceful,” Stephanie said. “It’s a natural process that should be allowed to happen on its own.”