The right to die

Opinions_Assisted Suicide Brittany Maynard

An ovation for those who bow out with grace and dignity

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 11, 2014

Brittany Maynard—a 29-year-old who was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumour—decided to travel from California to Oregon where assisted suicide was legal, so she could “die with dignity.” After the events, we were all left wondering about the ethical repercussion of such actions.

We must understand that Maynard did not wish to die in this manner. She did not want such a disease, none of us do. Once the likelihood of a cure is dismissed, the only thing left is for the cancer to take over, which would then be followed by a long, lingering death because of Maynard’s youth. None of us want a long torturous death either. To make such an irreversible decision is not something we can take lightly, but that choice should nevertheless be offered.

Sometimes life is worse than death—at least some of us living think it is—and although there are optimists out there that believe in miracles, what would have likely happened if Maynard stayed alive is that her pain would have been extended, she would become a burden to her family, and she would have withered away slowly. She did not take the cowardly way out. She was brave enough to understand that her vessel on this world had failed her.

Assisted suicide, unlike euthanasia, is a last resort that should not be withheld from those wishing to die with grace—although I am not necessarily convinced that there is ever grace in dying. Natural death, incidental death, or spontaneous death all lead to the same conclusion. For most of us, we cannot predict how we are going to pass.

We get greedy with life the older and sicker we get. We want one more sunrise, one more adventure, and one more story to tell. Maynard got that last day. She knew exactly when it was, on November 1.

What would you do with your last week on Earth? Maynard went out into nature, celebrated her husband’s birthday, and spent her last weeks and days with the people she loved. We can only be so lucky to have that experience ourselves, assisted suicide or not.

I both love and hate thinking of death. I love where my imagination goes, the curiosity that fuels me, that tempts me. But I hate knowing that my whimsy isn’t something fabricated, it’s the inevitable. I contemplate my ideal death, and I cannot imagine one. As someone who is healthy and happy, I cannot consider my own death without thinking of those around me. It’s unfair for me to think about my demise; it’s selfish. For those of use who are healthy and living, we cannot judge someone for the way they want to go, we can only offer them assistance, guidance, love, and options.

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