Our Privacy/Cookie Policy contains detailed information about the types of cookies & related technology on our site, and some ways to opt out. By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use.


Death With Dignity Should Be a Choice

What if you knew the day you were going to die? What if you could choose it?

That 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.

RELATED: Is My Kid Obsessed With Death?

Now, 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 dignity laws.

It was the only option she had if she wanted the right to choose when and how she would say goodbye.

In 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.

I 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.

I used to say I would just embrace the end and let it take me. And you know what? I meant it.

But 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.

Then 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 death.

Obviously, 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.

Death with 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.

Brittany 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.

So 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.

Maybe 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.

RELATED: When Your Toddler Asks About Death

So 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.

Because everyone should have a right to their final dignity.

And because Brittany’s voice shouldn’t die with her.

Share this on Facebook?

More from baby