You’re going to die.
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day. Fortunately, society has evolved to the point where it’s possible for some to have control over the circumstances of their death.
Bills such as the End of Life Option and the Death with Dignity acts support a person’s right to die on his or her own terms. However, some see physician-assisted suicide as an execution, rather than a voluntary option.
“This bill distinctly ignores the incomparable miraculousness of human life and fails to take into account the value of every individual and his or her right to life, not the right to death,” wrote Lauren Konkol in her column for the Central Florida Future.
A life where an excruciatingly painful disease has taken a person’s ability to do the things most important to them is not a miracle most people would welcome. Physician-assisted suicide does not ignore the miracle of life, but instead allows mentally competent people to escape the curse of prolonged, debilitating pain from terminal diseases.
Any corruption of the End of Life Option or the Death with Dignity acts doesn’t stem from the idea that people have the right to die. Instead, it comes from health care organizations that see physician-assisted death as a cheap alternative to expensive life-saving medications or treatments.
In 2008, the Oregon Health Plan refused a woman coverage for potential lifesaving drugs and informed her they would cover her assisted-suicide drugs instead. The treatment drugs were $4,000 a month, whereas the assisted-suicide drugs were a one-time payment of $50. It’s easy to imagine the company made that call based entirely on the finances.
“Opponents say the law presents all involved with an “unacceptable conflict” and the impression that insurance companies see dying as a cost-saving measure. They say it steers those with limited finances toward assisted death,” Susan Donaldson James at ABC News said.
In this case, the woman didn’t want to consider assisted suicide and it was unethical for her insurance company to try to force her to decide between death and debt. However, the abuse of insurance companies doesn’t make physician-assisted deaths immoral or unethical.
In 2014, a young woman named Brittany Maynard took advantage of the Death with Dignity Act. Maynard researched the treatment options available for her brain cancer and concluded that none would cure her, or even allow her to stay herself for the remainder of her life. She considered passing away in a hospice, but decided against it.
“Because the rest of my body is young and healthy, I am likely to physically hang on for a long time even though cancer is eating my mind. I probably would have suffered in hospice care for weeks or even months. And my family would have had to watch that,” wrote Maynard for a CNN opinion article.
If people don’t want to go through long periods of pain, cause others pain, or wither away to a husk of who they used to be — they shouldn’t have to. People have the right to do whatever they want with their own bodies as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. The argument that another person’s emotional pain of losing a friend or family member is comparable to the physical and mental anguish of the people dealing with these diseases is faulty at best and selfish at worst.
Anyone who sees a way to improve his or her life and circumstances without harming others should have the right to pursue those options. You have the right to pursue the life you want, and the life you want may be one that ends in the death of your choosing.
You’re going to die and you deserve to have a say in how.
Alissa Smith is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.