Death with Dignity

Brittany Maynard’s physician-assisted suicide on Nov. 1 has sparked controversy in the government as well as homes across the country.

Brittany Maynard was 29-years-old when she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that would cause her to be terminally ill. She was given about six months to live. Maynard decided to leave her California home and move to Oregon. There, she asked for and was legally prescribed a deadly dose of drugs. Due to the Death with Dignity Act in Oregon and four other states, Maynard was able to decide to end her life with the help of a physician.

The Death with Dignity Act (DDA) was enacted on Oct. 27, 1997 in Oregon. The Act allows an Oregon citizen with a terminal illness to self-administer lethal doses of drugs prescribed to them by a physician for the purpose of suicide. According to Oregon Health Authority, a total of 1,173 people have had DDA prescriptions and of those people, 752 have passed away from ingesting the medications prescribed to them. About 80 percent of the patients had malignant neoplasms (cancerous tumors) that caused them to want to employ the act.

Maynard said to CNN “I quickly decided that death with dignity was the best option for me and my family.” She confessed, “I am not suicidal… I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.”

Maynard chose to end her life because she did not want to suffer the pain of a long, prolonged, six month death. She did not want her family to see her suffer in hospice care or a hospital. She wanted to have the option of being able to pass away peacefully in the comfort of her home.

The controversy over Maynard’s death is whether or not the States should allow patients, that meet three main standards, the use of death with dignity. The three main standards the patient has to meet are having: mental competency, a terminal illness, and a prognosis of six months or fewer to live.

Many people are disputing whether or not physician-assisted suicide should be legal in all states or not. Some say that it does not seem right for physicians to be able to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to patients. Others, like me, argue that it is up to the patient to decide if they want to legally overdose or live out his or her remaining time. While I understand the opposing argument, it’s really up to the person suffering and their close family and friends to decide how the patient would like to go. After all, if they know they will pass away sooner rather than later, why not let them choose when instead of having them anxiously waiting and counting down the estimated days they have left?

I know that if I were diagnosed with a painful disease and given a short time amount of time to live, I would like to have the option to be able to shorten my pain. I wouldn’t want my family to have to watch me suffer as I slowly whittle away. It seems nicer to be able to know that I would be able to have a chance to say meaningful last words to my family rather than never knowing what I would be saying last to them. I could relieve stress from my family too, by taking the prescription. No one would have to worry about paying off six months of medical bills or rushing me to the Emergency Room as I gasp for air in my final hours on life support. If I change my mind, I wouldn’t be obligated to take the drugs.

After the prescription is in their possession, it’s up to the patient. It is an option for the patient to not take the drugs after they have been prescribed, however, it is most common for the patient to take the prescription. Physician-assisted suicide is the generous option for terminally ill patients to have, even if they choose not to use it.