Medical Aid in Dying has been in the forefront of the news since 2013 when the nation first learned about Brittany Maynard. Brittany was 29 when she was given just 6 months to live; having an aggressive form of brain cancer, her wish was to be able to access Medical Aid in Dying before the cancer would rob her control of her body. In order to be able to die at a time of her choosing, in the manner she wanted, Brittany and her husband moved from California to Oregon where Medical Aid in Dying has been legal for almost two decades. Brittany died peacefully on November 2nd, 2014, exactly the way she wanted.
Brittany’s legacy helped lead to California & Colorado making Medical Aid in Dying legally accessible for terminally ill patients in 2016 and Washington D.C. in 2017. Medical Aid in Dying bills are also pending in many states across the country. Dan Diaz, Brittany’s husband, continues to advocate for those states that are working to have Aid in Dying laws passed.
WHAT IS MEDICAL AID IN DYING?
Medical Aid in Dying or Aid in Dying is when a mentally competent terminally ill person that has been determined to have six months or less to live, can request a prescription from their doctor to take at a time of their choosing – or never – so he or she can die peacefully without pain or suffering. That’s the basic definition. To read more facts about Aid in Dying, click HERE.
While the majority of the general public agrees that Aid in Dying should be an available option for those mentally capable, terminally ill adults, there are still those that oppose it.
One argument against Aid in Dying is that it’s suicide and many feel that suicide is morally wrong, thus trying to create a stigma. According to the American Psychological Association the definition of suicide is the ending of one’s life most often due to depression or mental illness. Many times people that choose suicide believe their loved ones would be better off without them, when in fact that’s not true.
Ask any patient with a terminal illness if they would rather live or die and I guarantee that every single person will choose to live. Terminally ill patients are not suicidal. We are slowly dying from our illness until it ends up killing us. A terminally ill person that uses Aid in Dying is taking control of the last phase of their life – their death. Many that get the prescription never use it, but have peace of mind knowing it was there if they wanted it. The data from Oregon for 19th year under the Death with Dignity Law reports that 55.9% of people who received the prescription ingested the medication and died; 17.6% didn’t take the medication and died on their own.
On November 2nd, 2017, The American Association of Suicidology issued a formal statement in which they stated there is a clear distinction between suicide and Aid in Dying and that Aid in Dying should NOT be considered to be suicide.
ALL THE TOOLS
The medical profession does all it can to help keep its patients alive. Surgery, medications, chemotherapy, radiation, clinical trials, blood tests. As patients we do these things because we don’t want to die. We are given all the tools to help keep us going for as long as possible. Some we use and some we don’t; but we choose to use the tools that are best for us because ultimately, it’s our decision – it’s our life.
When those tools are used up and gone, we are given a new set of tools for the end of our lives. Hospice, Comfort Care and Palliative Care (if we don’t already have them on board from active treatment). If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the six states that have Aid in Dying, you have that tool too. If you don’t, you’re out of luck unless you move. Shouldn’t we have all the options? Even if we don’t use them all? Shouldn’t we all be afforded all the tools for the end of our life the way we had all of the tools to choose from to help keep us alive? Because in the end, it’s our decision – it’s our death.
Jennifer Glass, California resident who fiercely advocated for Aid in Dying in her state and died in 2013 from lung cancer said it best:
“I’m doing everything I can to extend my life, No one should have the right to prolong my death.”
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