The right to death

It is hard for some people to remember to wake up in the morning and be thankful for their current situation. It is human to want more than what you have. Realizing that our situation could definitely be worse is helpful in order to understand how blessed we truly are.

A few days ago I came across a heart-wrenching story about a young woman named Brittany Maynard. Maynard is a 29-year-old woman from San Francisco who was diagnosed with a horrible form of brain cancer after having a series of severe headaches. At first, the doctors gave her a few years to live, but that all changed after a second visit to the doctor’s office revealed her at stage 4. Her doctor then gave her only six months to live. 

During an interview with CBS, Maynard opened up about the thoughts that ran through her mind when she was diagnosed with Grade 4 brain cancer. She had so many plans and dreams to travel the world. She was married to the love of her life and planned on starting a family with him. Honestly, I could not begin to imagine the emotional pain that she went through.

Maynard and her loved ones moved to Oregon where “Death With Dignity” is allowed by law. “Death with Dignity” is a program designed to assist terminally ill people in death. A physician prescribes a medication to a patient who is suffering from an illness that is likely to kill them. This allows the patient to pass the way he or she wants to and surrounded by those that they love most. Maynard plans to pass upstairs in her own bedroom. By her side will be her parents, husband, and best friend who, is also a physician. 

This story has sparked many people to come forward showing their love and prayers to Brittany and her family. Many people can only imagine what she is going through and stand by her decision to end her life on her terms. However, there are many others who are skeptical about this medication, believing that the elderly and other developmentally ill people will abuse the medication. A doctor even spoke out saying that if he were her doctor he would have done everything in his power to persuade her to fight till the end. When asked about what she thought of the opinions of skeptics, Maynard expressed frustration that people who are not in her position have no right to tell someone who is terminally ill how long they should fight, or how much pain they should endure. 

My connection to Brittany is as if she were my own family. I recently lost a cousin to melanoma skin cancer. These two stories are very similar in the sense that both Maynard and my cousin were/are young, beautiful and enjoying life when they found out that they had only some time to live. 

The time that one is told they have to live could never be enough. I remembered seeing how bad cancer had taken complete control of the body of my cousin within a mater of weeks. One day we were at the mall getting dresses to go out, and the next I am confusing her for a passing elderly woman in the hospital bed. Cancer has a way of leaving you with skin and aching bones; a body full of painful tumors.

“Death with Dignity,” in my opinion, should be the decision of the person who is ill. Like  Maynard said, no one can ever understand the feeling one has with cancer until you have it yourself. 

Unfortunately, my cousin did not know of the option of having “Death With Dignity.” She attempted suicide many times, but cancer took its time with her and killed every single piece of her before she took her last breath. I watched her suffer agonizing pain. And now I only wish she would have known of “Death With Dignity.” I know she would have ended her suffering a long time before she passed.

I understand that not everyone has experienced cancer in his or her family, so I ask that you take some time out of your day to watch Brittany Maynard’s story. Google her name and she will pop up. 

After watching her story, try and put yourself in her position. Try and imagine being told you only have months to live, and that those months will be the most physically painful moments of your life.

Lastly, imagine having no other option than to watch yourself deteriorate, feeling it every step of the way. “Death with Dignity” gives people the right to die at their own time, under their own terms.