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Dying with Dignity

By Amy Brown
7 Jan 2015

Death with dignity is increasingly becoming a prominent social issue. In November, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard decided to end her life after receiving a prognosis of six months to live after being diagnosed with aggressive terminal brain cancer. Maynard decided that instead of allowing her mind to detriorate while the rest of her body was reasonably healthy, she would rather decide when she died.

However, terminal patients are only allowed to receive a prescription that allows them to receive life-ending medication in five states in the US. Maynard decided to move to Oregon to have this option available to her, so she could die before she was unable to make her own decisions. In her opinion article on CNN, Maynard wrote that she “can’t imagine trying to rob anyone else of that choice.” By choosing when to die, Maynard says that she will not only save herself potentially months of dying pain, but also save her family from having to watch her suffer when palliative care can do little. Maynard is only one of many people who have made the decision, or wanted to make the decision, to die with dignity before they either became a burden on family or had their quality of life diminished.

Should the option for terminally ill patients to receive medication to end their life be extended to other states? I believe that it should; when the quality of life is so low and death is unavoidable, it seems ethical to allow a person to make that decision on their own terms. While laws about who can make this decision are necessary – such as Oregon’s law that a patient must have received a terminal diagnosis with six months or less left to live – everyone that fits the circumstances should have the right to die with dignity. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Amy graduated from DePauw University in 2017, and was a Hillman Intern and the Digital Media Assistant Managing Editor at the Prindle Institute for Ethics. At DePauw, she was an Honor Scholar and Political Science major with a Russian studies minor. She has spent time abroad in the Czech Republic and now works in Washington, D.C.
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