Just saw the news that Brittany Maynard has ended her life. I am glad she has brought attention to the idea of controlling the timing of your death. Death is hard. It is made even harder by the “life at any cost” mindset in America. Almost every night, I provide care for patients whose quality of life is minimal. patients whose dementia has destroyed their minds, who don’t know who they are, or where they are, and whose life consists of pain, confusion, and fear. Yet, we continue to provide aggressive medical care to prolong their suffering.
I hope Brittany’s death will spark further discussions about the right of people to control their life and death. Sometimes the choice is not between living and dying, but instead a choice of how you die. She chose to die at home, surrounded by her loved ones – instead of in a spiral of seizures, pain, and invasive medical procedures, surrounded by strangers. While I am sad for the loss her family is experiencing, I am glad she was able to make the choice.
I wish more states would provide people with the right to choose how their life ends. We wouldn’t make a beloved pet suffer through the last days of a terminal disease – in fact, it is considered inhumane to do so. But for people, we deny them choice and force suffering upon them.