Bioethics Blogs

Why the right to die movement needed Brittany Maynard

by Keisha Ray, Ph.D.

Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with brain cancer. At the age of 29 she decided to end her own life and “die with dignity” under Oregon’s “Death with Dignity Act.” There have been many articles written in support of Maynard’s choice and many articles written condemning her choice to die. The right to die movement has many hurdles that it must overcome to draw in more supporters and hopefully influence public policy. Some of those hurdles include misconceptions about the kinds of people that want to end their lives and why people who have been diagnosed with terminal illness want to have the choice to take their own lives. To anyone who was watching and willing to consider her point of view, Maynard gave the right to die movement a significant push by dispelling some strong misconceptions.

In life many choices are not our own, but how we live our life is our choice. Maynard did not choose to have cancer invade her brain, but she did choose how to live her life after her diagnoses. After her diagnosis, Maynard remained doing the activities that had always made her life fulfilling—traveling, volunteering, and spending time with family and friends. Maynard made an informed choice to not let brain cancer kill her. She made the decision to choose how her life ends. And that’s one of the major aims of the right to die movement—that terminally ill patients ought to be able to choose how long they live with their disease and whether their disease will be the cause of their death.

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.