I just watched a video on CNN about a terminally ill young woman, Brittany Maynard, 29, making a “death with dignity” decision. She has moved to Oregon, met all the legal requirements for residency and diagnosis, and obtained the drugs that will end her life at a time of her choosing.
It’s a tragedy for any person so young to learn she or he has a terminal illness, but it convinces me more than ever that death with dignity should be legal everywhere. It’s humane and compassionate and indisputably better than suffering the physical and emotional pain of weeks or months of dying with some relentless, unstoppable disease.
The story makes mention of the family’s reaction to Maynard’s decision and I got the impression the reporter thought the decision was questionable, that perhaps death with dignity is not a good idea. I strongly disagree. What right does anyone else have to tell me I must die naturally, no matter how much pain and suffering I might have to endure in the process? Who has more right than I to decide how I will die?
I can’t imagine the horror of being terminally ill and in great pain and being told I’ll just have to suffer for however long it takes. Imagine have to endure all kinds of unwanted medical intervention because doctors and family want to keep you alive and all you want to do is make your own choice. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about it. How could I be 71 and not have thought about it? What a relief it would be to have those pills on hand and not have to worry about the pain, suffering, and loss of dignity.
The obvious problem is that so few aging seniors have the physical strength and financial means to pull up stakes and move to Oregon (or Washington or Vermont) just so they can qualify for a death with dignity. I’m aware of the many problems and objections, medical ethics, etc., but it doesn’t change my opinion that this should be an option for every mentally competent adult in every state.