Why I am pro-assisted suicide

Brittany Maynard will die at age 29. Although many would call her death “assisted suicide,” she asserts that, “there is not a cell in my body that is suicidal or that wants to die.” Assisted suicide has appeared in public debate many times in the past, and Maynard’s death has brought the issue back to the public eye. Let me be up front: death has been part of my life for my entire life. I’ve been to more funerals than weddings and written more academic essays about grief and death in literature than I can count. Back in sophomore year (it feels like ages ago at this point), I took Debra Campbell’s Death and Spirituality class. In that class, we watched How to Die in Oregon, which happens to be the same state where Brittany Maynard lives. The documentary focused on assisted suicide, and after watching it, I firmly felt that all states should allow assisted suicide. And I still do.

Assisted suicide, first of all, is not suicide. In Oregon, the state possibly best known for its allowance of the policy, there are limits to the law. A severely depressed person cannot merely decide that they want to die with a doctor’s help. Like Maynard, those who are choosing to “die with dignity” have terminal illnesses. With a terminal illness, patients lose control of everything that they might have otherwise had plans for. Choosing a date to take your own life gives you some control back.

Additionally, those who choose assisted suicide are able to surround themselves with family and friends and die without pain, at home, with total control over the situation. The patient is in control the entire time: everything from giving confirmation in the last moments that they still want to end their life to physically holding the cup that holds the toxic mixture to their lips.

Although assisted suicide is not an issue that could be resolved in a single piece of writing, it’s important to note that even with assisted suicide, those with terminal illnesses have no obligation to end their own lives. It simply gives those who would like to the option to do so. I used to wrestle with this issue when my own grandmother was told she did not have much time left. Although I would never want my grandmother to end her life, remembering back to her final weeks, I remember her pain and struggle. Had she had the option to end her life on her own timeline and chose to do so, I would have respected her wishes and possibly even been able to mentally prepare more for that time when the time came.

Brittany Maynard’s death has sparked a debate once more about assisted suicide, and I can only hope that in the future, more people will have the ability to take control of their life and death.

Leave a Reply