Dying with dignity: A patient’s choice

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Illustration by Trevor Moore

“You have six months to live and only three will be good.”

I’ve given a lot of thought as to what I’d do if I heard those words. After all, living with two congenital disorders really puts mortality into perspective.

If I ever found myself face to face with death and was given the choice between dying slowly and painfully or choosing to die on my own terms, I’d probably choose the latter.

Last year, California native Brittany Maynard found herself in this situation. She had terminal brain cancer and was told that her last few months of life would be painful and immobilizing.

Instead of waiting for death to come to her, Maynard and her immediate family moved to Oregon so that she could die when she wanted via physician-assisted suicide.

At the time of her decision, Oregon was one of only five states that allowed physician-assisted suicide.

Now her story and death has inspired legislation proposals in California, Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Washington, D.C.

This proposed legislation focuses on establishing laws that will give terminally ill patients with six or less months to live access to programs where they can choose to end their own lives.

This would be done with medication prescribed by physicians but administered by the patients.

While this legislation was just introduced in California, I already have my pen out to vote yes for this cause.

Maynard had to move out of the state she grew up in so that she could die on her own terms. She left her home, friends and the rest of her family.

To me, that’s the saddest part of her story.

And while many people don’t agree with physician-assisted suicide because they think it gives physicians too much power or it messes with God’s plan, there’s only one thing I can say:

No one has the right to tell terminally ill people what they can and can’t do with their final days.

They are the ones who have to live with the pain and suffering.

They are the ones whose minds may be sound, but whose bodies may be broken.

No one else knows the pain better than them, so they are the only ones who can make that decision.

While I will hopefully never have to hear those fateful words, I would advocate for those who do.

Maynard was a strong individual who made a difficult decision as she faced her final days. But ultimately, it will be in her memory that people fight to change the way California looks at and treats those who wish to die with dignity.

Megan Mann can be reached at [email protected] or @meganisthemann on Twitter.