if you knew the day you were going to die? What if you could choose it?
is exactly what Brittany Maynard, a brave and strong young woman currently
living in Oregon, has decided to do. She has selected November 1st
of this year, just a few weeks away, as the day she is going to die.
before anyone starts panicking or planning an intervention, it might be helpful
to know that Brittany has terminal brain cancer. She and her family moved to
Oregon when it became clear there was no cure to be found and when doctors gave
her six months to live. The move from their previous home in Northern California
was predicated by the fact that Oregon is one of five states that has death with
was the only option she had if she wanted the right to choose when and how she
would say goodbye.
college, I took a class on death and dying. We explored a wide variety of
subjects stemming from human mortality, and one of the subjects we discussed at
length was death with dignity — the right of terminally ill patients to take
their own lives humanly before the disease could do it for them.
Maybe I would let go before (my daughter's) memories of her fun mom were erased completely by a woman writhing in pain.
used to say that if I were ever diagnosed with some sort of incurable cancer,
or even just a cancer with low odds of survival, I would forgo treatment and
spend my dying days living. I would
max out credit cards, see the world, visit with those I loved; live as though
there was no tomorrow. Because realistically, there probably wouldn’t be. It’s
not that I would have been choosing death, but rather that I would have been
choosing to live those last days to the fullest — not in some hospital,
attached to machines and medicines that made me miserable.
used to say I would just embrace the end and let it take me. And you know what?
I meant it.
now I’m a mom, and I don’t think I could embrace that so readily. The tides have
turned, and I’m pretty sure I would fight with everything I had to get as many
days with my girl as I could.
again, maybe that would be unforgivably selfish on my end. Maybe I would
eventually have to ask myself how deeply I wanted her to see me consumed by
illness — how I wanted her to remember her mommy. And maybe then, maybe I would choose to embrace a little of the old
me. Maybe I would let go before her memories of her fun and lively mom were erased
completely by a woman writhing in pain, pissing herself and dying a miserable
no one wants to think about these options. It’s heartbreaking as a mother to
imagine leaving your children behind, no matter how you do it. It’s also
excruciating to imagine your child being faced with a similar choice, which is
why my heart aches for Brittany’s mother. But the point is, for those who have
no choice in the leaving, they should have a choice in the how.
dignity should be an option everywhere — not just in states liberal enough to
recognize the ways in which the benefits far outweigh any risks, moral or
otherwise. For those who believe in miracles, who want to believe they could
have one of their own, they can still choose to wait it out. But for those who
have faith in their doctors and the diagnosis they have been given, and who are
approaching an end they may not want to endure; let them choose to let go.
Providing that choice for those who otherwise have no more choices to make, it is what’s right.
has already outlived the six months she was originally given — she has already
lived longer than doctors predicted. But she is also starting to experience the
effects of deterioration; the headaches, the seizures, the weakness. And she
doesn’t want to go out like that. She doesn’t want to LIVE like that.
with her last days ahead of her, Brittany is campaigning for death with dignity
laws to be enacted nationwide. She has set
up a website and produced a video about her cause that is sure to bring
tears to your eyes. She is using her death as an opportunity to fight for
change — just one more reason to admire this woman who seems so strong in the
face of her inevitable end.
she would feel differently if she were a mother herself. Maybe she would be
less inclined to choose a day to be her last. But I would imagine that even
then, Brittany would tell you that making death with dignity an option is
simply the humane thing to do.
Providing that choice for those who otherwise have no more choices to make, it
is what’s right.
maybe you’ll join the cause, helping to support Brittany not only in her last
days, but also in her dying wish; to see death with dignity options made
available to all. Share
her story. Talk about it. And learn how to make a difference in your own state.
everyone should have a right to their final dignity.
because Brittany’s voice shouldn’t die with her.