Keenan: Terminally ill have right to control own death


There is a debate in the United States about whether to legalize physician-assisted suicide. 

Joellen Keenan

In countries around the world, there has been discussions of whether physician-assisted suicide should apply to cases that are not terminal that have passed the initial debate of legislation. This made me start to think about our country and how far behind we are on the discussion regarding physician-assisted suicide.

The debate that is taking place in our nation has not yet reached the question of terminal versus nonterminal; it is still in the early stages of questioning the legality of physician-assisted suicide.

Only a handful of states have legalized it, and our society has been split in terms of what people believe we should do as a country.

I believe we should entirely legalize physician-assisted suicide, and our nation is taking smart steps toward reaching this goal.

It’s already legal in Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Individuals in these states must have a terminal illness, as well as a prognosis of fewer than six months to live, to be considered for physician-assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide is also legal in Montana and one county in New Mexico. This is because court rulings are based on judicial decision and do not mention a specific timeline. A bill to legalize assisted suicide was sent to the governor of California within the past few weeks. If signed, California will become the fifth state to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

Specific methods in each state vary, but assisted suicide normally involves a prescription from a licensed physician approved by the state in which the patient is a resident.

A young woman used physician-assisted suicide to end her life in November 2014, but her death fueled the discussion about the positives of legalization. Brittany Maynard had been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. She was told she only had a few months to live and decided to move from California to Oregon in order to take advantage of Oregon’s law that allows people who are terminally ill to end their life. 

The news of Maynard’s decision brought the entire debate into a positive light.

Many people supported Maynard taking her fate into her own hands, but there were individuals who disapproved. Individuals who, in most cases, couldn’t even imagine what Brittany was going through and therefore didn’t understand why she would want to end her life.

But who are we to decide how other people should die? Who were we to tell Brittany that what she was doing was wrong, that she should die a slow, painful death in hospice care? Personally, I couldn’t imagine myself being in any situation similar to that, so I have no room to judge somebody who was.

I understand that there are people who simply cannot afford treatment and might view assisted suicide as their only option. To deal with that, we would need to take a step back and look at the flaws in our health care system.

Some individuals wouldn’t want to burden their families with taking care of them or are even pressured into it, and that is another issue that we need to look at. I agree that the system of physician-assisted suicide needs some altering, but the idea of it is still entirely correct.

People should be able to take control of their own death when they are terminally ill.

A lot of the arguments against assisted suicide include the fact that suicide is wrong and immoral — this idea usually stands stronger in the eyes of religion. Separation is supposed to exist between church and state, and to bring religion into any argument is entirely closed-minded and outdated.

When are people going to realize that just because their religion says it is immoral and wrong doesn’t mean everyone’s religion does. At that point, who’s to say that your religion is more correct or important than mine or someone else’s?

Separation, people. We need to stop quoting the Bible when it comes to legislation.

This is not something that people can decide impulsively to do. Patients have to endure a thorough process to make sure they are making this decision of sound mind. 

This isn’t something you can just spontaneously decide to do. No one is taking this lightly.

Giving the power to the patient helps them die more comfortably and with dignity, not lying in a shell of who they used to be. They die knowing it was their choice. Their families receive less of a financial burden of health care for a terminally ill patient, and they are also not forced to watch their loved one die a crippling death.

Put yourselves in their shoes.

Stop thinking you have the right to tell someone, who was just told they have six months left, that they cannot do anything about it, that they must wait for the illness to tortuously eat away at their body and mind until they eventually die.