Updated: Mar 20, 2019
Patients who are dying should have the right to a dignified death.
By Aimee Martinez, Staff Writer
Sheryll Randall was dying from a mitochondrial disease that was slowly attacking her organs. Unable to eat as her body gradually broke down, Randall’s suffering became too much for her, and if physician-assisted dying had been legal in Colorado, she could have departed in peace. Instead, she hanged herself.
Right to die laws allow terminally ill adult patients the ability to reclaim control over their circumstances using lethal physician-prescribed medication. The laws empower those likely to die within six months by giving them a chance to have a dignified, pain-free death. In order to ensure that no one ever has to die like Randall and many others do, the following U.S organizations and more have dedicated themselves to fighting for these basic human rights: Death with Dignity National Center, The Final Exit Network and Compassion and Choices.
Six states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation allowing physician-assisted death.
“A good death is one that seems appropriate,” said President of Compassion and Choices Barbara Coombs Lee. “It seems like the life has been lived, the meaning has been had, and the death honors that.”
Too often, patients are left suffering as they down pills, endure chemotherapy or undergo multiple surgeries with the promise that it may heal them or prolong their years. Brittany Maynard, however, put an end to her treatment after her tumor came back more aggressive despite two surgical attempts at stopping the growth.
According to CNN, the 29-year-old refused a full brain radiation that would singe her scalp and leave her with first-degree burns.
Instead, she died in a way that honored her life. She spent the end of her days traveling and enjoying her last days with her family before the brain tumor overpowered her with seizures and memory loss as her cognitive functions dwindled.
According to the American Medical Association’s code of medical ethics, a physician must provide the patient comfort and care and adequate pain control, however sometimes the ultimate comfort and care for a patient is death.
The Hippocratic oath calls doctors to do no harm to the patient, but by forcing a patient to live in suffering, doctors are causing harm. When doctors help patients die peacefully on their own terms, the patient assumes the control lost in their terminal disease and thus regains psychological peace.
The American Public Health Association states that having the right to die helps the patient psychologically by giving them autonomy, control, and choice.
Gayn Frank who was diagnosed with terminal cancer said, “I have lived with dignity. I want to die with dignity.”