Death with Dignity

Death is not an easy topic to talk about and it’s even harder when you talk about the right to die or assisted suicide.

In November, 29 year old Brittany Maynard was in the news for her decision to end her life. Maynard, a California resident, had moved to Oregon because of its law permitting physician assisted suicide.

Oregon is not the only state that allows assisted suicide – New Mexico, Montana, Vermont and Washington do so as well. However, their allowing assisted suicide does not mean that anyone can go to those states and die with dignity because there are a set of requirements that have to be met – a minimum age of 18, be a resident of that state with six or less months left to live, and have two oral and one written request made to physicians. However, the issue that stuck its head up once again is the debate of whether euthanasia should be allowed to be legal at all, other than for the death penalty.

This caught my attention because my sister is Maynard’s age and it made me think of what stance I would take if it was my sister who had a terminal illness.  From where I stand there is no arguing because as I place myself in others’ shoes it is a simple choice of allowing people to do as they want with the limited time they have; regardless of how long doctors say.

I’m not saying that death isn’t painful to family members or a tough decision to make, but it is a decision that must and will be made in the end. Yes, life is precious and every moment should be taken advantage of and that’s a great argument to make but when we really think about it most of our time is ill spent. On average we spent 38 hours of our lifetime at traffic lights, 37, 935 hours driving a car, and 80,486 hours watching TV.  Of course, one could argue that the time given until estimated death could be taken advantage of by starting to cross off items from the bucket list; however, no one really focuses on the fact that having a deadly illness limits the activities that can be accomplished.

I have a perspective on this because I was in a car crash where I ended up with bruises, scrapes, and a left forearm broken at both radius and ulna. I realized how we do amazing things for our family. From when the car crash happened, to receiving surgery, and even after when the staples were removed; I kept my composure as best I could. Waiting two hours to get x-rays were filled with agonizing pain but since my older brother was with me I smiled and pretended to not be hurting. So when a family member is hospitalized for a deadly illness they could be in immense pain. Yet, they are smiling and laughing not only because of your presence but also because they know that not doing so will sour the mood in the room.

My stance on physician assisted suicide might have been different had I not been in a car accident, but not a lot since I am open minded and believe everyone should be able to make their own choices. We say life is precious and death is scary, but it comes down to a quality of life issue.  Death will be the end result for people with terminal illnesses, but the difference will be that going through with physician assisted suicide allows them to say their goodbyes to all their loved ones and to die with dignity.