Brittany Maynard’s life and recent death have reminded us that we hear so much in this country about the right to life (choosing or not choosing abortion) but little about the right to die.
The right to die refers to the right of a terminally ill person to legally end their lives on their terms, without going through excruciating pain or watching their brains and bodies disintegrate over a period of time. This is also known as physician-assisted suicide.
People are allowed to take their own lives in some states, under the supervision of a qualified doctor, when terminally ill. These states are Oregon, where Brittany Maynard recently died, as well as Washington, New Mexico, Vermont and Montana.
Brittany, a Californian native, made many headlines in the past few months concerning her decision to “die with dignity” before her brain cancer would cause her to lose control over her life and her decision-making abilities.
She was diagnosed not long after her marriage. First she was told she had about 10 years to live. After she had surgery a new MRI showed she had grade 4 brain cancer, shortening her life expectancy to about six months.
Already suffering from seizures and at times, not being able to say her husband’s name, Brittany went public about wanting to speed up the process, while pursuing her “bucket list” of things she wanted to see and do before she died. She completed her list with a visit to the Grand Canyon.
The group Compassion & Choices (who support end-of-life choices) stood by Brittany and endorsed her decision to end her life on her terms. She also had the support of her husband, family and many members of the public.
Not everyone supported her decision. Religious groups, including the Vatican, spoke out against it, saying that Brittany was playing God with her body and should not have this right.
Other sectors of the community that have spoken out against her decision are groups that support the disabled.
The group Not Yet Dead describe themselves as “ a national, grassroots disability rights group that opposes legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia as deadly forms of discrimination.”