Brittany Maynard at her wedding

Brittany Maynard at her wedding

The right to death with dignity advocate Brittany Maynard ended her life at age 29 Saturday spurring euthanasia arguments for and against. In her final Facebook post, she wrote: “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. “I did not want this nightmare scenario for my family, so I started researching death with dignity. It is an end-of-life option for mentally competent, terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live. It would enable me to use the medical practice of aid in dying: I could request and receive a prescription from a physician for medication that I could self-ingest to end my dying process if it becomes unbearable. “I quickly decided that death with dignity was the best option for me and my family.”

Brittnay Maynard in an undated photo, died this weekend at age 29.

Brittnay Maynard in an undated photo, died this weekend at age 29.

Most American support death with dignity though their support hinges on how the question is asked. In a Gallup Poll from May 2013, 70% of Americans supported the statement “End the patient’s life by some painless means” but the US was split 51% for and 45% against when the question asked “Assist the patient to commit suicide”. The big question that her death leaves open, however, is whether the debate she inspired will lead to changes in how Americans feel about assisted suicide, according to an NPR article published earlier today. Arguing against the practice in a New York Times Op-Ed piece, Ira Byock wrote: “‘When doctor-induced death becomes an accepted response to the suffering of dying people, logical extensions grease the slippery slope,’ he wrote in a New York Times op-ed. He cited statistics in Holland, where the practice is permitted, that claim more than 40 people sought and received doctor-assisted death for depression and other mental disorders. ‘Even the psychiatrist who began this practice in the 90′s recently declared the situation had gone “off the rails.” “‘Moral outrage is appropriate and needed to fix the sorry state of dying in America. Legalizing assisted suicide fixes nothing. The principle that doctors must not kill patients stands.'” An article from the National Library of Medicine at NIH summed up the definition and debate nicely. The word euthanasia, originated in Greece means a good death. Euthanasia encompasses various dimensions, from active (introducing something to cause death) to passive (withholding treatment or supportive measures); voluntary (consent) to involuntary (consent from guardian) and physician assisted (where physician’s prescribe the medicine and patient or the third party administers the medication to cause death). Request for premature ending of life has contributed to the debate about the role of such practices in contemporary health care. This debate cuts across complex and dynamic aspects such as, legal, ethical, human rights, health, religious, economic, spiritual, social and cultural aspects of the civilised society. Her obituary read as follows: Brittany Maynard“She moved to Oregon to pass away in a little yellow house she picked out in the beautiful city of Portland. Oregon is a place that strives to protect patient rights and autonomy; she wished that her home State of California had also been able to provide terminally ill patients with the same choice. Brittany chose to speak out and advocate for this patient right and option, which she felt is an informed choice that should be made available to all terminally ill patients across our great nation. “The freedom is in the choice,” she believed. “If the option of DWD is unappealing to anyone for any reason, they can simply choose not to avail themselves of it. Those very real protections are already in place.” With great consideration, she gave personal interviews to the UK’s Tonight Show prior to Death with Dignity being addressed by their Parliament, as well as participated in an American based campaign for Death With Dignity education and legislation.” For those in this country who strive to protect patient rights and autonomy, Brittany stated, as above, “The freedom is in the choice.”