Death With Dignity

Category: News

The right to die with dignity is one of the more polarizing issues facing us.  From Dr. Kevorkian (the “death doctor”) to Obama Care (the “death panels”), we have seen every argument for and against the right to end our own lives.

But those who have made the decision or seen it happen in others are the best testament to the importance of having the right to make this decision of ourselves.  In 2014, Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman, showed us the more personal aspects of this decision.  At an age when most of us are just starting our families, Brittany was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

Since she was so young and the rest of her body was healthy, she would more than likely have lingered on for many months. She felt it unfair to put her husband and family through that torture, and wanted to be the one to decide when she would die.

Unfortunately, Brittany lived in California, which at that time did not have a death with dignity law.  As a result, she had to uproot herself and her family to establish residency in Oregon;  change her driver’s license and voter registration information; and her husband had to take a leave of absence from his job.  It was a monumental undertaking for someone as ill as she.

Once in Oregon, she had to find doctors who would agree that she fit the criteria of being able to die with dignity.  She was able to do so, and received the prescription, and thereafter ended her life in November.

Prior to her death, she stated,

“I hope for the sake of my fellow American citizens that I’ll never meet that this option is available to you. If you ever find yourself walking a mile in my shoes, I hope that you would at least be given the same choice and that no one tries to take it from you.

When my suffering becomes too great, I can say to all those I love, ‘I love you; come be by my side, and come say goodbye as I pass into whatever’s next.’ I will die upstairs in my bedroom with my husband, mother, stepfather and best friend by my side and pass peacefully. I can’t imagine trying to rob anyone else of that choice.”

Amazingly, 7 out of 10 Americans support the right to die with dignity, and slowly but surely, our legislators are taking notice.  Right now, only four states have physician-assisted death statutes in place.  They are Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and, thanks to the hard work of Brittany’s husband, California passed such a law in 2015.    In addition, a Supreme Court decision allows physician assisted death in Montana.  On November 1, 2016, the Council of the District of Columbia passed the Death with Dignity Act.

There are 2 Death With Dignity laws before state legislatures in New Jersey (Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill) and Colorado (End of Life Options Act).  For more information, follow www.deathwithdignity.org, and if you live in New Jersey or Colorado, please be sure to reach out to your state legislators and urge them to pass these important laws.

January 2017 Update:

In 2016, the Colorado law passed.  The New Jersey law did not, but will no doubt be reintroduced in a future session.  Another 26 states have recently introduced laws similar to Oregon’s Death With Dignity law, so check your state to see if you live in one of them.

However, it is still a polarizing issue.  Even though the DC law passed, certain members of Congress are trying to repeal it, and on Thursday, January 12,  a Senator from Utah and a Congressman from Ohio introduced companion measures to the House and the Senate to over ride the DC law.  If approved by February 28 and signed by the President, the DC law would be repealed.