Instead of fearing death, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard has come closer than most to embracing it.
The terminally ill woman has become a poster-child for the “death with dignity” movement. This initiative allows those who have been diagnosed as terminally ill to receive a medication that will let them choose when or where they wish to die.
Maynard has chosen to die a few days after her husband’s birthday in late October. This comes after she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in January. She had barely been married to her husband for a year. Even after several surgeries the tumor returned and Maynard was given six months to live.
Maynard and her husband moved to Oregon from California to take advantage of the state’s assisted suicide laws. Oregon is one of three states – joined by Washington and Vermont – that has assisted suicide laws.
“I can’t even tell you the amount of relief that it provides me to know that I don’t have to die the way that it’s been described to me, that my brain tumor would take me on its own,’’ Maynard said in a video posted on YouTube. ‘‘I hope to enjoy however many days I have on this beautiful Earth and spend as much of it outside as I can surrounded by those I love. I hope to pass in peace.’’
Most patients that opt for assisted suicides are over the age of 45. This makes Maynard a rarity, while also a good face for the assisted suicide movement.
“Because (Maynard) is young and vibrant and articulate, she has generated a lot of attention,” said George Eighmey in an interview with CNN. He is a board member of the Death with Dignity National Center, which is an advocate for physician-assisted death for terminally ill patients.
Americans have decided that they support assisted suicide, even when it is phrased as such.
According to a Gallup survey conducted in May, 51 percent of those surveyed said that doctors should be able to “assist the patient to commit suicide” while 70 percent agreed that doctors should be able to “end the patient’s life by some painless means.”
Assisted suicide for terminally ill patients has been a subject in the news in the past, namely due to Dr. Jack Kevorkian, aka Dr. Death, who claims to have assisted more than 130 people with the act.
While assisting those who know death is coming with choosing a peaceful ending is an option that should be made to all American citizens, it does come with some fear.
What if doctor giving the diagnosis got it wrong? What if after assisting a patient with suicide, an autopsy shows they could have been cured?
This, however, is a problem that can be navigated by having multiple doctors opinions. If three doctors give the same diagnosis it would ease the fear that the wrong decision would be made.
It should be the choice of someone with a terminal diagnosis whether to die peacefully or not. Society today seems to interested in the longevity of life rather than its quality.
Brittany Maynard understands that, choosing to give her family and friends a chance to say goodbye without seeing her suffer in pain, something all American’s should be allowed to decide.