Britney Maynard's Right to Die Discussion
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."