One has a right to die with dignity
Brittany Maynard stirred up a national controversy when she announced that at 29 years old she would be ending her life before a terminal disease ruined her quality of life. Maynard recently carried out that act, and the national debate over the right to die has not ended.
But should it really be a debate at all? For a nation that values conducting itself in an ethical and humane manner, is denying someone the right to end his or her life in the face of unimaginable suffering at the hands of disease a humane action?
As long as someone is confirmed to be of sound mind and have a terminal illness, which is a component of every piece of assisted suicide legislation in the states that have legalized the procedure, what is the reasoning behind denying someone the right to a death with dignity?
The main argument against allowing death with dignity is that suicide is forbidden in many religions, as in many sects of Christianity and Eastern religions. While these views are seen as an ironclad no to death with dignity, according to the Death with Dignity National Center, even the Catholic Church, one of the staunchest groups opposing euthanasia, have offered differing views of what is and is not acceptable.
Emmanuel Kant argued for the innate value of human life, and some opposed to death with dignity use a Kantian defense to argue that by allowing people to take their lives, human life loses its value.
Brittany Maynard’s argument against this is a life of suffering would be a life with no value. Rather than try to prolong her life with treatments that would erode the quality of her remaining time, she chose to embrace the remaining time she had with open arms and then to end her life before it lost its meaning.
Others may argue that since they are forbidden by the federal government that euthanasia or assisted suicide are wrong. However, as quoted in the Washington Post, Arthur Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University Langone Medical Center, believes that seeing a young person, such as Maynard, as the face of the death with dignity movement might cause a reevaluation of our collective beliefs on the legality of death with dignity, which would culminate in a new federal law allowing for the right to die.
In the past, this issue has been seen as a debate left for the elderly. Few think of the end of life coming in your ‘20s or ‘30s, but now that Brittany Maynard has publicized her battle and the struggle that dying a death with dignity was for her, a younger generation might recognize the need for this right and actively fight to protect it.
Maynard argued for her right to die a death without prolonged pain and without prolonging the suffering of her friends and loved ones, as they would watch her be debilitated by her disease. I cannot imagine a more noble reason to end your life, and I hope that with time others will have the right to make that choice.
Natural death is still honorable
At the age of 29, Brittany Maynard decided she would die with dignity after being diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a form of cancer that according to the American Brain Tumor Association leaves patients with a median of 14.6 months to live.
After her decision, she and her family moved to Oregon because the state has the Death With Dignity Law, which allows terminally ill residents to voluntary self-administer lethal medication. I can’t imagine what it would be like to find out I have less than a year to live. Maynard was young and had so much of her life left to live, so to be told she was going to die a painful death probably hit her like a freight train.
But then I thought about how many close friends and family members I have who have known people to suffer deaths similar to that of Maynard’s. From children to mothers of young adults to men and women who have lived long, full lives, terminal illness can strike anyone. It’s a disgrace to say that these people died without dignity.
Dignity by definition means “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.”
Yes, when you are on the brink of dying and you are in an intense amount of pain and suffering, you may feel your dignity is gone. But, I for one, think that sticking it out and fighting the fight makes you worthy of the utmost honor and respect.
Another point to be made on this subject is that Maynard could have used her illness for good. According to the International RadioSurgery Association, roughly 13,000 Americans die every year from brain tumors like the one Maynard suffered from. She could have given her body and her illness to science while she was still alive.
She could have saved thousands of lives by allowing doctors to treat her with experimental drugs and procedures. That could have brought her more suffering in her last six or so months of living, but in the grand scheme of things, she would have died a hero.
I am not saying that Maynard’s decision wasn’t made without much thought. But, I do think that there was much more life left for her to live. Six months, a year, a lifetime, you never know when a miracle can strike.
You never know when it will become your time to change a life or save a life. Before her death Maynard started a movement, but she could have just as well become encouragement for millions of people suffering from terminal illnesses to fight the good fight.
She could have fought and tried to live the life she always wanted.