by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.
Over this past weekend, Brittany Maynard took her own life. At 29-years-old, Mrs. Maynard took her prescription for assisted suicide to end her life before her terminal brain cancer pushed her into a quality of life that she found unacceptable. She was young, articulate, and facing a very short lifespan where she would lose control of her body and mind, becoming increasingly dependent on others to complete activities of daily living.
Mrs. Maynard had stated her intention to take her life in an internet message that she sent out into the world. She had moved to Oregon from her home state of California in order to be able to take advantage of the Death with Dignity law there. Mrs. Maynard became the center of a Compassion and Choices campaign—an organization whose origins are in the right to die movement.
Oregon legalized assisted suicide in 1997 and since that time, close to 1,200 people have secured prescriptions but only 752 have taken the drug. Many do not take the drug because they die before they get the chance or they change their mind. Some studies suggest that what people seek is a sense of control when dealing with diseases that remove that. In 2014 alone, 7 states introduced death with dignity bills. In all but two the bills were defeated or expired. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania the bills are still under consideration. Assisted suicide in the United States is currently only legal in 5 states: Oregon, Washington, Montana, New Mexico, and Vermont.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.