Following Brittany Maynard’s fight for the right to die with dignity, at least 15 states proposed legislation allowing medical assistance for death. Right to die campaigners realize many of the proposed bills will not end up as law. They view the introduction of legislation as a “testament to the growing support of the Death with Dignity movement.”
I believe terminal illnesses such as metastatic cancers or degenerative neurological diseases rob a human of his/her dignity. Provided there is no shred of doubt that the disease is incurable and terminal, I would support a patient’s decision to end their life, and I would also wish the same option was available in my case should the need arise.
In comparison, just 41 percent of European physician were in favor of physician-assisted suicide.
Maynard’s powerful and public pleas for states to give people choice when dying is making a difference. In California, a group of patients and physicians filed a lawsuit against the state to end criminal liability of physicians who help their patients die. The patients want physicians to have the choice to give terminally ill, mentally competent patients medication they can take if they choose to end their lives.
Attorney Christy O’Donnell is one patient in support of the End of Life Option Act. Forty-six year old O’Donnell explains why she supports this legislation in this video:
Another group of doctors and terminally ill patients filed a similar lawsuit in New York. One plaintiff is Sara Myers. Myers, age 60, has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Myers was diagnosed with ALS four years ago. Since her diagnosis, Myers is living through a down ward progression. She is confined to bed or a wheelchair and depends on others to dress, bathe and eat. Myers is losing the ability to speak. She is afraid she will be trapped in “her own paralyzed body, while retaining her full intellectual and emotional capacity.”
Allowing physicians to help terminally ill patients choose when they die is just that –it is a when not an if. As the plaintiffs in the New York lawsuit argue, physicians already help patients die by:
- Turning off ventilators
- Honoring DNR requests
- Letting patients abstain from food and water
In these situations, both patients and their families are put through mental and physical anguish.
Neither lawsuit supports unrestricted aid in dying. Instead, the parties ask the states to allow doctors to help mentally competent people with terminal illnesses die in a humane and dignified manner.
The patients desire to have the option of ending their lives is not a selfish choice. They do not want to die, but they are dying. In most cases, patients do not want to become burdens to their loved ones. They do not want their family members watching them suffer and making difficult decisions about their care. They want what Brittany Maynard wanted – a peaceful death on their terms.
What do you think? Should doctors be allowed to prescribe medicine that allows terminally ill people to end their lives when they want?