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Brittany Maynard and the debate on assisted suicide

A few weeks ago, Brittany Maynard, an advocate for the right-to-die movement, passed away by ending her own life. According to an article in New York Times, Maynard had terminal brain cancer and had six months to live. Because of her diagnosis, Maynard announced via YouTube that she intended to die. Maynard’s story immediately gained a great amount of exposure though different social media and news platforms because of the controversy of the right to die. Although controversial, her choice was protected by Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which allowed her to end her life through “self-administration through lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose.”

Brittany Maynard’s death has opened intense dialogues on physician-assisted suicide on social media and news platforms. According to the American Medical Association, physician-assisted suicide occurs when a physician facilitates a patient’s death by providing the necessary means and/or information to enable the patient to perform the life-ending act.”

There are many arguments against the action, with some being that it goes against the Hippocratic Oath, an oath taken by many doctors to uphold certain medical and ethical standards, that it weakens our morality and care for other’s lives, that it has a potential for being abused by doctors and patients, and the list goes on and on.

These points of view for assisted suicide are completely understandable. No one wants to die, let alone think about death. Although death is an unavoidable part of life, we naturally want to avoid it and live as long as we can.

Even the thought of suicide can make someone cringe. There is a damnation of the act, that suicide has hurtful effects to the point where many others consider it quite selfish.

At the same time, we must think about the concept of suffering in cases like these. No one wants to suffer and hurt like Maynard would have if she had chosen to live through her terminal brain cancer. In the YouTube video, she even says that “there is no treatment that would save my life, and the recommended treatments would have destroyed the time I had left.”

Also, no one thinks about what has driven that person to such an extent of ending their life. Uncovering the motives for suicide can be tricky and painful for that person. We would like to save and help that person, and our first step is to help and understand their reasoning. Maynard weighed all of her options, knowing the potential aftermath of her actions. She spent time researching her options, according to an article in The Telegraphand made a decision to move to Oregon and gain a sense of peace through her death.

Maynard has defended her choice, stating “I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.” And Maynard did. Maynard made a choice. Even though there are many that may not agree with it, she chose to live a life on her terms. She took the meaning of carpe diem and enjoyed those last moments of life with loved ones to support her.