Quick Takes – Death by Dignity

Oregon resident Brittany Maynard’s recent death by assisted suicide has garnered national attention, bringing back the moral debate surrounding the issue of ‘Death with Dignity.’

‘Death With Dignity’ Is a Protection of Individual Rights and Autonomy 

Depriving an individual with terminal illness of the right to die in the way they choose is a violation of their human rights. The issue of assisted suicide is first and foremost one of autonomy. That is, we ought to respect the capacity of rational individuals to make informed, uncoerced decisions concerning their own life and well-being. The most recent National Public Radio-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll shows that 55 percent of responding Americans favor physician-assisted suicide for people with less than six months to live. Measures should be taken to ensure that public policy reflects this opinion. “Death with Dignity” allows terminally ill individuals to choose to end their lives using lethal medications rather than experiencing unnecessary and often enduring amounts of pain due to disease.

Twenty-nine-year-old Brittany Maynard, whose story was recently featured by CNN, elected to utilize Death with Dignity in light of her diagnosis of brain cancer. She made an informed decision on the matter, accounting for various grim details of her future with the disease, including the fact that she “could develop potentially morphine-resistant pain and suffer personality changes and verbal, cognitive and motor loss of virtually any kind.”

As others in her position would likely conclude, Maynard preferred to face death on her own terms — peacefully, painlessly, in her right mind, in her own time and surrounded by loved ones; rather than despondent suffering, pumped full of drugs and surrounded by medical professionals. When faced with a terminal illness and insufficient palliative care, Death with Dignity is a reasonable and, for a good number of patients, a preferred method of treatment. It is not a treatment that should be denied to anyone who chooses it as their best option.

—  Hailey Sanden Staff Writer

Regulating Assisted Suicide Becomes Difficult, With Too Many Possible Motives

After a recently married, 29-year-old woman facing terminal brain cancer ended her life on Nov. 1, new debates have been sparked about legalizing assisted suicide. Brittany Maynard relocated from California to Oregon, one of five states where the act is legal. Death with Dignity, an organization advocating for dying individuals’ right to choose death, is pushing Maynard as the poster example of why assisted suicide should be an option. Regulating assisted suicide throughout medical institutions is problematic. There is too much room for corruption within its institutionalization for this to be a widely accessible option.

People with debilitating illnesses fear a loss of autonomy more than pain and suffering. The annual 2013 report from the Oregon Public Health Division reported that 93 percent of people seeking assisted suicide were troubled by a loss of autonomy. The inabilities to function independently and feel productive and valuable are huge concerns. As sick patients rely on relatives for simple tasks, they fear being financial and emotional burdens.

When regulating assisted suicide, it is difficult to tell whether people are fighting for the right to die or the duty to die. On CNN Maynard said, “I probably would have suffered in hospice care for weeks or even months … I did not want this nightmare scenario for my family.” The fact that she considers her continued existence to be a nightmare for her family is significant. Many disabled and elderly folk experience a loss of autonomy and still enjoy life.  The legalization of assisted suicide pressures terminally ill people to die painlessly and cheaply, without burdening society.

—  Cassia Pollock Contributing Writer

Moral Implications of Allowing ‘Death with Dignity’ Are Grave 

For a country such as the United States to provide  its citizens the right to die would be a betrayal of two of the nation›s most prized values established upon independence. Life and liberty, as endowed by a Creator, would surely be infringed upon through the federal legalization of assisted suicide.

It should be self-explanatory that suicide in any form is an affront to the sanctity of life, but right-to-die activists will argue about one›s ability to avoid the deterioration of life. But really, what quality is there to find in a state of nothingness and existential decay?

Furthermore, while the choice to die may seem appealing to those concerned with human liberty, what additional freedom is truly gained when human life ends? In death, one no longer has the choice to see their family anymore. They›ll never experience emotions of nostalgia and love ever again. About 200,000 years of human existence has given no clue as to what happens in death, but what is definitive is that the freedom associated with one’s right to life will come to naught.

And beware the slippery slope. In 2013, around 40 people in the Netherlands were allowed euthanasia for mental illness. The year before, two conjoined twins from Belgium chose euthanasia over loss of sight. As for the United States, the death rate from assisted suicide in Oregon has increased by four to five times since the state law passed.

Don’t be fooled by right-to-die activists and their Orwellian attempts to convince the American people that death is life. Their exploitation of Brittany Maynard›s assisted suicide — a hardship best left to friends and family, not political activists and the news cycle — is yet another product of America’s culture wars.


— Jordan Utley-Thomson Contributing Writer



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