Everyone deserves death with dignity, even if by choice


The Appalachian Online

Lindsey Chandler

Most of us count down the days toward our next significant life events. Brittany Maynard spent the majority of this year counting down toward her death.

Maynard, a 29-year-old resident of Portland, Oregon, took her own life Saturday after months of battling an advanced form of terminal brain cancer.

She was diagnosed Jan. 1, and, with the support of her family and husband, decided to live out the next 10 months of her life as fully as possible. She traveled, visited friends and family and scheduled her life around her illness until her symptoms became too painful to bear.

Maynard made the executive decision to peacefully end her own life Nov. 1, the day after her husband’s birthday. She wanted to spend that day with him and spend the following day surrounded by her loved ones.

In addition to completing her bucket list in her final months, Maynard continued to advocate for her right to die, a controversial topic that often goes unnoticed in the news. She wanted to see that her choice be made available for anyone suffering through difficulties or illnesses through use of the Death With Dignity Act.

The Death With Dignity Act allows terminally-ill patients in Oregon to end their own lives through voluntary self-administration of lethal medications prescribed by physicians, according to www.oregon.gov.

Maynard worked with Compassion and Choices, a nonprofit organization that hopes to bring control to a stage of life that is often dominated by pain and suffering. This organization works to spread the access of end-of-life options to others, according to its website.

Currently, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington are the only states that allow end-of-life choices.

Maynard’s choices have sparked debate regarding our control over life and our duties to live out the days we are given. Her choice has been likened to suicide, but Maynard did not want to die. She and her supporters believe she chose to eliminate her suffering and rapidly worsening symptoms in a calmer way.

She hoped in the days following her death, her family would still be proud of her and the choices she made, according to ABC News.

Her battles for control over her own life came to be called “death with dignity,” and that is exactly how she navigated through her final days – with a strength that many of us hope to find within ourselves.

While I stand with Maynard and her choice to take control of her life, her story became more like a publicity topic on social media than a fight for others to have the same rights she did. I find it odd that she spent the final minutes of her life not only surrounded by her loved ones, but also posting her goodbye on Facebook.

A final goodbye is an incredibly personal moment, and should be equally as private. Death is a difficult subject, not a tool for attention. One cannot help but get the idea that her personal story was used as an attention-grabbing sad story and not to shed light on an often-overlooked cause.

Maynard’s is not the only death with dignity. This term should be applied to everyone who faces terminal illness or something life-threatening. She is being described as brave for the choice she made, but this seems to discredit the bravery for everyone else fighting a difficult battle. Maynard is not the only one to be going through her situation, and it is imperative that we remember this.

Her message was to live life as fully as possible, and to fight for the rights to control our own lives. Her choice was one she wanted available for everyone, along with the freedom for that choice to be made.

Ultimately, her decision was her own, as it is for anyone, and there is an immense respect to be had for those among us fighting their battles.

Chandler, a senior psychology and Spanish major from Cary, is the opinion editor.