This might seem like a morbid kind of post, but I thinks it’s a compelling and sometimes polarizing topic, so here goes! A couple of weeks ago Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that makes it legal for physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients. There’s been an ongoing debate on the issue for years, but it was recently brought to the forefront this past year primarily because Brittany Maynard, a young California resident, moved her family to Oregon in order to “die with dignity” as she eloquently put it.
I don’t pretend to know how agonizing her decision was and how hard it must have been to move to another state in order to live her final months the way she chose, but I can say that I’m pretty sure I’d do the same thing given the situation. Ever since Dr. Jack Kevorkian started the conversation on “right to die” back in the late 80’s, I’ve always thought it made sense. Yes, some people will see it as a form of suicide or are against it for religious or moral reasons, and everyone has a right to their opinion, but until you are suffering as Brittany did and walk in her shoes I don’t think it’s right to judge. I guess you can say that of many situations in life, but this one seems to spark a heated debate and sometimes tear families apart. I think the key component in this bill is that the person must be terminally ill. You can’t just go to your doctor and request a bunch of pills. There are steps to go through in order to leave this world in a more humane way. I think most people would agree that you always have to go for a second and third opinion on your specific diagnosis and do whatever you can to fight a good fight, but, in the end I’d rather die on my own terms, with my mind intact and able to express the love and gratitude I have for my family and friends, instead of them watching a slow decline in my health. When my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer it had already metastasized to his bones and other vital organs. He passed away four months after his diagnosis, but it was not fun watching his decline and I’m thinking that if this bill had been in place he may have chosen this option. He always said he lived a great life, was a grateful person and he seemed brave, knowing that he didn’t have much time left on earth, but I would think it was scary knowing that you’ll be in pain for those four months. I’ve heard horror stories of families going through their life savings, and going into debt, in order to prolong an elderly person’s life who might otherwise, when they were healthy, not have wanted this and all because a doctor couldn’t grant a final wish of death with dignity. I, for one, am glad that doctors can add this option to the conversation with their patients.
Okay…this hasn’t been a very uplifting topic, but I’ve been thinking about it since hearing of Brittany’s dilemma, discussions with friends on the subject, and the subsequent passing of this bill and I felt the need to put it in writing. The bill won’t go into effect until 2016, so there will be more discussion on the topic to be sure.
I think I need to go exercise now in an effort to stave off the above decision for a very long time.
You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!
100% agree and support the right to die law. My grandmother died of breast cancer a few years ago–a big reason why I moved back to the USA after living abroad–and it was a 12-month-plus decline that was difficult for everyone involved. After 83 wonderful years where she didn’t regret a thing, she was ready to go–and it was painful to watch her struggle when her body just wouldn’t cooperate and let her go. It’s a tough thing, but ultimately: shouldn’t the individual be able to decide?
I’m with you on this one. It’s been very much in the public arena here in Ireland in the last few years.
This report, I’ve linked to below, about Marie Fleming’s court case against the state might give you more food for thought. Her own past history is very harrowing too, and her book might be a good choice for your next book club! (I’m sure it’s available for kindle etc)
Wow, such an interesting article Gina! I think I’ll put that on my book list. Thanks!