If a dog is severely ill a veterinarian may suggest euthanasia, but if a human is severely ill and suffering they are not always given the same humane treatment. Each year many Americans are diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Their path can be both emotionally and physically painful. Today only Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana possess a law to allow death with dignity. I believe that each state in the U.S. should pass a law so that those who are terminally ill can choose their fate.
First of all, a person should have the right to decide when they want to die if faced with a terminal illness. The Death with Dignity Act gives terminally ill, but mentally competent patients the right to “accelerate their own death with self-administered prescription drugs” (Clark). Those who are terminally ill should have the option to die before the disease kills them. If a patient is given a terminal diagnosis, he or she should be able to decide when to die as a final act of autonomy. Patients should be given the right to decide if they want to accelerate their death when given the diagnosis or wait to see how much suffering they may encounter. Or, they may choose the course of their disease, but the power is in their hands. For some patients, having the choice may put an end to expensive medical costs and financial burdens for their family. For opponents who believe such a law will be abused, “... in the seventeen years under Oregon’s pioneering 1997 law, just 1,327 people have received prescriptions for lethal medications- about 74 a year- and one third of those did not use them” (Will). Just because there is a law in place does not mean it will be utilized. The option to choose provides enough peace of mind.
Equally important, terminal patients should have the right to end their physical and emotional suffering. Many patients with a diagnosis of brain cancer are faced with seizures, excruciating headaches, inability to speak, walk or see. In addition, they may face the pain of chemotherapy and radiation with the same outcome. Twenty nine year old Brittany Maynard, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, chose to end her life in 2014 before she faced extreme suffering and as she said spare her loved ones from her cancer’s depredations. The same choice I would make for myself and my family. If any family member of mine was suffering, I would rather see them pass peacefully than to see them suffer for a very long time. In addition, many patients feel that not being able to interact and be the person that they were is as bad if not worse than physical suffering.
Finally, those with terminal illnesses shouldn’t have to take extreme measures to fulfill their wishes. Some terminal patients turn to starvation to end their life if it is not legal in his or her state. Diane Rehm, who is a radio host, had to watch her husband starve to death over ten days because he lived in a state where it was illegal to help terminally ill patients who want to die. How is this humane? For opponents of the Death with Dignity Act who worry about human error and coercion, “The law provides many safeguards to ensure proper diagnosis of the disease, determine a patient’s competency to make the decision, and protect against coercion” (The Editorial Board). Safeguards are in place to insure no wrongdoing. Other opponents of the Death with Dignity Act, such as physicians feel that participating in an assisted suicide goes against their main priority which is to cure. I understand that it might be hard for doctors to go against what they are used to, but putting a person who is in pain out of their misery is very similar to curing their pain. I also wonder whether these doctors who are opposed to death with dignity have ever had to watch one of their family members suffer from a terminal disease. Would this possibly change their minds?
Conclusively, I believe all patients should have the choice to decide when they want to die when faced with a terminal illness. They should be able to choose to end their suffering without using extreme and inhumane measures. The same as we do for animals. The Death with Dignity Act is a law that should be enacted in every state.
Clarke, Jackie. "Death with Dignity Act: A Terminally Ill Patient's Right to Die." Death with Dignity Act: A Terminally Ill Patient's Right to Die. 15 Sept. 2015. Web. 13 Mar. 2016.
Will, George F. "Terminally Ill Should Be Able to Decide Their Own Fate." New York Post. 30 Aug. 2015. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.
"Offering a Choice to the Terminally Ill." The New York Times. Ed. NY Times Editorial Board. The New York Times, 2015. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.