Brittany Maynard

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This has been a really interesting week to sit in observation if, like me, you are fascinated by things relating to dying, death, euthanasia etc.  Of course, this has been due to the highly publicised story of Brittany Maynard in the US.  This 29 year old woman chose to end her life over the weekend after receiving a terminal diagnosis earlier this year.  She, her husband & other members of her family moved to Oregon in the USA where it is legal to end your life under their Dying With Dignity Act.

This story has created nothing short of a feeding frenzy of comments from both sides of the discussion.

In case you were wondering, I am very firmly on the pro choice side of this discussion.  I absolutely believe we need to have the right to choose.  It doesn’t mean we have to exercise that right, just to have the option.  And for those who feel it may ramp up cases where relatives with not so pure motives may get their way, my position is in alignment with Dying With Dignity Queensland who have the following aim:

To have the law in Queensland changed so that, subject to appropriate safeguards, residents suffering intolerably can receive assistance to die peacefully and painlessly.
This help must be in accordance with that person’s expressed direction.

In 2012, a targeted online survey of more than 1,400 people conducted by the Australia Institute revealed more than 70 per cent believe euthanasia should be permissible.  

I was at a meeting of Dying with Dignity Queensland recently where one of our local independent politicians was the speaker.  He was asked directly that if more than 70% of Australians believe that we should have the choice, why don’t we?  His reply was simple.  The powers that be who are behind the scenes & select our politicians don’t want it.  It truly does not matter what we as citizens want.

What really gets me going is that the lines of this discussion get blurred between suicide & euthanasia.  The scenario I support  is people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness; whose time is limited; who are suffering & they are wanting the choice to end their life on their terms.  Brittany actually made a powerful comment which I quote below :

“For people to argue against this choice for sick people really seems evil to me,” she told PEOPLE.
“They try to mix it up with suicide and that’s really unfair, because there’s not a single part of me that wants to die. But I am dying. It’s not a decision you make one day and you snap your fingers,”

The other thing to consider here is where people wish to die.  A study undertaken by Palliative Care Australia of over 1000 people found that of the ones who had thought about it, around 74% wish to die at home.  The reality is very different with only about 16% of people dying at home, 20% die in hospices and 10% in nursing homes. The rest die in hospitals.

Another interesting statistic is that in Oregon last year, 122 people were issued with prescriptions that would allow them to die with dignity.  Of that number, only 71 actually died in accordance with the Dying With Dignity Act.  So it is clear that people want to have the choice, but do not necessarily need to exercise it. Also, 97% of the Dying With Dignity Act patients died at home.  You can read the full report on these statistics by clicking here.

My greatest question in this discussion to the opponents is why not?  I absolutely do not believe that this is something that should be forced on any person.  And there has to be safeguards & it has to be in accordance with that person’s expressed wishes.  If it is not your wish, that is absolutely fine with me as your journey is just that, your journey.  But why should someone else be denied the option to make a choice for themselves based on your beliefs? 

I truly hope that in my lifetime we are granted the opportunity to choose.

With much love, Sharon