Staff editorial: Assisted suicide in Oregon provides learning

Duke Staff

Last Saturday, Brittany Maynard ended her life after learning that she had a terminal brain tumor earlier this year. Medical examiners explained to Maynard that she still had six more months left to live but she took her life into her own hands by opting instead for physician-assisted suicide.

If you’ve heard about Maynard’s story, you’re not alone. The 29-year-old Oregon woman partnered with Compassion & Choices, a non-profit organization that seeks to improve patients’ rights and choice to die as they so choose.

Maynard and C&C turned her life choice into a campaign that spread awareness of the right-to-die movement thus establishing a presence during her final days and those that followed.

Maynard explained in a video posted last month that, “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 had been described to me – that my brain tumor would take me on its own.” To argue from a Christian perspective, God may have given her those final minutes, but Maynard had the final say on how to spend them.

Maynard’s choice was just that, a choice; something many other Americans don’t have when it comes to physician’s assisted suicide.  Established in 1997, Oregon  initiated the 1997 Death with Diginity Act, a law that permits adults with terminal illnesses to voluntarily end their lives with lethal medication according to U.S. News.

The law is only in effect in two other states, Washington and Vermont, with Montana and New Mexico making strides to establish a similar practice.

We are not advocating Brittany Maynard’s decision nor are we advocating against it. We are however standing by Maynard’s choice and the right to that. NBC New writer Arthur Caplan wrote it best in his op-ed “Bioethicist: Brittany Maynard’s Death Was an Ethical Choice” by stating, “If you seek out medical care, you are making choices about how long you will live. If you drive too fast, drink too much, smoke to much or fail to get your kids vaccinated, then you are making decisions about how soon death comes.”

Maynard’s life brought a greater awareness to a cause that is often overlooked in the patient autonomy discussion. Like other terminal diseases, cancer affects not just the patient but the family as well, neither of which have a say in the matter in the majority of the U.S. as of late.

To put it bluntly, you should have the final say of your body before anyone else.