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Brittany Maynard and the Right to Die in America

By HERWriter Guide
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Britanny Maynard: The Right to Die in America Pavlo Vakhrushev/PhotoSpin

Brittany Maynard’s life and recent death have reminded us that we hear so much in this country about the right to life (choosing or not choosing abortion) but little about the right to die.

The right to die refers to the right of a terminally ill person to legally end their lives on their terms, without going through excruciating pain or watching their brains and bodies disintegrate over a period of time. This is also known as physician-assisted suicide.

People are allowed to take their own lives in some states, under the supervision of a qualified doctor, when terminally ill. These states are Oregon, where Brittany Maynard recently died, as well as Washington, New Mexico, Vermont and Montana.

Brittany, a Californian native, made many headlines in the past few months concerning her decision to “die with dignity” before her brain cancer would cause her to lose control over her life and her decision-making abilities.

She was diagnosed not long after her marriage. First she was told she had about 10 years to live. After she had surgery a new MRI showed she had grade 4 brain cancer, shortening her life expectancy to about six months.

Already suffering from seizures and at times, not being able to say her husband’s name, Brittany went public about wanting to speed up the process, while pursuing her “bucket list” of things she wanted to see and do before she died. She completed her list with a visit to the Grand Canyon.

The group Compassion & Choices (who support end-of-life choices) stood by Brittany and endorsed her decision to end her life on her terms. She also had the support of her husband, family and many members of the public.

Not everyone supported her decision. Religious groups, including the Vatican, spoke out against it, saying that Brittany was playing God with her body and should not have this right.

Other sectors of the community that have spoken out against her decision are groups that support the disabled.

The group Not Yet Dead describe themselves as “ a national, grassroots disability rights group that opposes legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia as deadly forms of discrimination.”

They believe that assisted suicide does nothing to support people living good lives with any form of disability. They believe that in fact, assisted suicide informs the public that sick or disabled people are not worthy of life. This group is non-religious.

Many bloggers have stated that Brittany was not disabled but dying, and say that there is a huge difference.

This view says that the disabled can have full lives and many are pain-free, unlike Brittany who had months to live and was being affected by her illness in a way that took away any quality of life, in her mind.

Conversely, those against assisted suicide feel that this is a “slippery slope” issue that may have society believing that those in imperfect health or with disabilities are not worthy of life.

Finally, not publicly spoken about much, but a real home truth -- one that many people will privately admit to, including medical professionals -- is that doctors have been quietly helping patients to die in America for centuries.

Tell Us

Where do you stand about this case and about assisted-suicide in general?


Not Dead Yet. The Resistance. Web. Retrieved Nov 4th, 2014.

Compassion and Choices. Web. Retrieved Nov 4th, 2014.

Voices: The legacy of Brittany Maynard. USA Today. Retrieved Nov 4th, 2014.

Reviewed November 10, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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