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Britney Maynard's Right to Die Discussion

Updated on October 9, 2014

Britney Maynard's Right to Die With Dignity Video

I recently came across a disturbingly sad video on CNN yesterday. If you watch the video above, you will see the story of Britney Maynard. Maynard who is 29, my age, was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer over ten months ago, just after she married the man of her dreams.

Now, Maynard has already received the medication that will kill her, decided that she will die in the bed that she shares with her husband, what music she wants to play as she passes on to the next life, and the select few people who will be in the room when she dies; her mother, step-father, best-friend who is also a physician, and of course, her beloved husband.

Britney has already decided that she will take the fatal medication on November 1, 2014. As of today, Britney Maynard has 23 days to live. This means that she has less than 70 meals to eat, and 200 hours to sleep; that is, if she will actually feel the need to eat or sleep much before her passing.

Britney is originally from California, but that is not one of the five states in the United States that has physician assisted suicide laws, which is why she and her family uprooted themselves from California to Oregon. Oregon was the first state in our nation that adopted these "Die with Dignity Laws" dating back to 1997.

Getting treatment that would prolong Britney's life, would have have caused her a great deal of pain. Her doctors told her that she could get radiation therapy, but she would have severe burns on her head, and there was a good chance it wouldn't make a bit of difference.

At first, Britney considered having hospice come to her home so she could receive pain medication and palliative care. After a person receives pain medication for a prolonged period of time, can lessen it's effectiveness. Since she is still young, and quite healthy except the stage 4 brain cancer, there is a good chance her body will not die for months, despite the fact that the cancer in her brain will cause her pain, change her personality, and she will no longer be the person she once was, and her family will be helpless to do anything about it.

My Thoughts on the Matter

Having a terminal illness is an incredibly tragic thing a person may go through, both for themselves, and for their family. Before writing this hub, I thought my opinion on physician assisted suicides would differ from most of the American public, especially since so few states have "Right to Die With Dignity" laws. According to a recent Gallop poll 74% of Americans believe their doctor should be able to help them die if they have a terminal illness.

In the states that do have these laws, there questionnaires and precautions that are set-up to ensure a person who is depressed is not able to utilize this law. The patient must show with paperwork and scans that they are truly terminally ill.

I personally do support these laws which give the patient the right to die with dignity if they are terminally ill. I understand that some physicians may believe that this goes against their Hippocratic oath to do no harm, and I respect that. I don't think a doctor should be forced to help euthanize a patient if that goes against his or her beliefs, but I think helping a patient to die with dignity is truly helping them.

Let's be honest, if a person wants to kill themselves because they are in dire pain with a terminally iill condition, there are ways to do it. However, there are many ways to screw it up, and this may leave the patient in worse condition then they originally were in.

I also understand that physician assisted suicide may go against the patient's or the doctor's beliefs, and I respect that as well. Just because a law may exist, that does not mean that anyone who may qualify for a "Die with Dignity Law" should utilize it, but in my personal opinion, it should be available for patients and doctors who do not believe that it is ethically wrong.

UPDATE: Now that I have received a few comments, I want to explain why I think the way that I do about this subject. I have seen people who have suffered extreme wounds who should not be alive. When I was in Iraq, I have seen people who were blown up from the ribs down. They only had from their lungs up, and they survived in extreme pain for hours, even with mass amounts of morphine. There was no way they would survive. Yes, you would be surprised to see what a human body can sustain and survive, there is no way you can live past a few second, minutes, to even hours when you are missing 70% of your body.

I have seen people who had half their head blown off and survive a few minutes to a few hours, and you could even see that they had sections of their brain missing. Like I said, I don't know how they survived as long as they did. Not that it even happened in my unit, but most people who have seen combat know of medics and corpsman when treating these patients, may give them a bit too much morphine on purpose. This is never allowed by officials, and the medic can be charged with murder, but it is not uncommon practice and we were aware of it. We didn't want our friends to suffer, but it didn't happen in my unit. Truth be told, if this happened to me, I would hope the corpsman would do it.

When I was injured from an IED in Iraq, and was being loaded into a Blackhawk, I was in excruciating pain, and begged for someone to knock me out. I didn't care if they used a shovel and hit me over the side of the head, I just wanted to be unconscious. Whether it was the medics, or that I passed out from the pain, I thankfully did go unconscious for a day and a half. Even though my wounds were life-threatening, they were not terminal, and with many surgeries, I survived, obviously. If the medics deemed my wounds were too severe for any hope of survival, I would hope they would overdo it on the morphine.

I understand that people might not feel uncomfortable with the whole idea of euthanasia, and that it is playing God, but humans do play God everyday. People decide who can get donated organs. People decide which frozen embryos to use. Cops and the military decide when to use lethal force. A person can decide to for a non-recitation order, and choose to die. Families decide to pull the plug everyday. How is choosing this option any different than pulling the plug? If the patient has no hope of having a good quality of life, let them pass with dignity.

This is a very controversial subject, and not everyone will agree, and that's fine. My personal beliefs is, if I am terminally ill and about to face months of agony and slowly having my mind rot and turn in to vegetable, I would take this option. I don't personally believe that the creator on the other side would fault me for that, just like if I ask my family to pull the plug if I am a vegetable.

In Her Own Words....

" I hope for the sake of my fellow American citizens that I'll never meet that this option is available to you. If you ever find yourself walking a mile in my shoes, I hope that you would at least be given the same choice and that no one tries to take it from you.

When my suffering becomes too great, I can say to all those I love, "I love you; come be by my side, and come say goodbye as I pass into whatever's next." I will die upstairs in my bedroom with my husband, mother, stepfather and best friend by my side and pass peacefully. I can't imagine trying to rob anyone else of that choice."


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    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Tireless traveler, I am so sorry you are going through that. What I was mentioning, wasn't palliative care. They weren't just waiting keeping them comfortable till they pass. This has been going on since the civil war. I commend you on your courage.

    • profile image

      Tricia Deed 

      4 years ago

      Euthanasia is tough. It's a very difficult decision because there are often doubts as to whether it was the right thing to do or not. When possible a living will needs to be considered.

      Death knows no age, however, people have difficulties talking about it. Much emotional pain can be lessened by what if? or when it happens? A discussion with family and friends is worthwhile. Talking about death makes living more precious.

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Sandra, that's a very wise comment you made. We never know what we would do. I can see the argument for both sides. As long as it has been confirmed by 3 doctors that the patient is terminal, and they will suffer in pain, then they should be able to die with dignity. If I was going to die this way, I wouldn't want my 8-year old to see me die slowly and to have my brain rot and turn in to a person who isn't her mommy any more. I wouldn't want my parents to pay exuberant amount of money on medical bills. I don't want to die, but I don't fear it as I once had.

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Bill, I completely understand. Unless you in the situation, a person never knows what they would do. That's why I don't think it's fair to prohibit those who make the decision to die with dignity.

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      I'm sorry that reading this hub brought up negative memories, that wasn't my aim. I'm so sorry about your mom. I don't know why people die painful deaths, I have had many friends who have suffered severely before they passed. I have asked myself the sane question. I hated God for many years, but I realized I just hated myself and not God. The only thing I can say is you can ask him when you see him. I hope you find peace.

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      I hope so too, Clive. I hope there is a miracle before the first. I think I will be bummed the whole day wondering if she did it yet. I'm her age so it really resonates with me.

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Your right Goat Fury, I think it's a basic human right.

    • Alli Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Alli Rose Smith 

      4 years ago from Washington, DC

      It's a very tricky subject that's for sure. But the way I look at it, would an advanced directive saying you wished your family to pull the plug, is that considered suicide? Thank you for your comment.

    • linfcor profile image

      Linda F Correa 

      4 years ago from Spring Hill Florida

      I have to admit that I have very mixed feelings about this whole issue. My religious beliefs take the side that suicide is wrong no matter what. Yet I also understand that dying a miserable death and causing pain to yourself and others in the process is wrong too. The medical community really needs to take a new look at the process, for sure

    • goatfury profile image

      Andrew Smith 

      4 years ago from Richmond, VA

      What an unbelievable travesty for the state to take away a right to die.

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 

      4 years ago from Jamaica

      May god bless her

    • Sulabha profile image

      Sulabha Dhavalikar 

      4 years ago from Indore, India

      I sincerely hope that some miracle takes place and Britney gets well 100%.

      For all others, I wish to say that my mother died of Brain Cancer in 1989. It was again a rapid development. Her shoulders suddenly slumped. Her one slipper fell down somewhere and she didn't know where. And soon after the reports came. Even if we didn't tell her she knew she was dying. How come all dying people come to know about their end!

      I remember her saying, "I don't want to die.."

      Later she expressed her desire to wash her hair. A desire never fulfilled. For soon after her hair was shaved. She died within a period of 5 months. We all watched her die. I hate it all. She never had convulsions till she got admitted. And then they came frequently. Just very, very painful.

      Your hub made me speak about the pain that was deep within me for years. Why such a painful death. Only God can answer. Or may be we all can!

      She always insisted on we eating properly. But why didn't she eat the salad, etc. And why didn't we notice this? There were a lot of telltale things which now I remember. May be as a daughter I should have fought it out and not kept quiet.The symptoms would have then come out in the open and she would have got cured. May be! May be! May be!

      Now I somewhat know that having neem early in the morning can be good. Even lime water early in the morning can help. Fibrous food and positive attitude can help. If only I was her elder sister and not her daughter. If only!

    • handymanbill profile image


      4 years ago from western pennsylvania

      It is a sad for her to have to go thru with something like this. But I believe that people who are truly that ill should have a right to decide. Who would want to suffer for months in pain? I probably could not do it myself. But I am not in that position to say.

    • Sandra Eastman profile image

      Sandra Joy Eastman 

      4 years ago from Robbinsdale MN

      I have always believed it is God who makes the choice as to whether we live or die but this story speaks volumes for the right to die with dignity. The problem I see with it is that it could easily be an abused or misused. I cannot honestly say how I would feel if I were in her shoes. None of us can know for sure how we will react given such devastating news. I would never fault her for the choice she has made.


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