With the highly publicized death of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year old terminally ill California woman who moved to Oregon to end her life, the debate over physician-assisted death has once again become a controversial topic across the country.
Maynard reignited a national debate on right-to-die laws and physician-assisted death when she made public her intention to end her own life on Nov. 1. Since Maynard’s death, many supporters of physician-assisted death have taken to social media and various outlets to help those suffering from terminal illness.
Non-profit organization Compassion & Choices is one of the only end-of-life organizations that assists terminally-ill adults who are considering aid in dying. According to their website, Compassion and Choices plans to make aid in dying an open, accessible and legitimate medical practice in California within five years. Currently only four states, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont, have legalized physician-assisted deaths, with Vermont being the latest state to sign physician-assisted deaths into law after passing Act 39 in May of 2013.
Despite the recent increase in public support of physician-assisted deaths, past attempts have failed here in California. Many people who are opposed of the idea are backed by their religious views that strongly oppose suicide. However, in the Bible, Proverbs 3:27 states: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” Why does the physician get the last say in how a terminally ill person gets to spend the last days of his or her life? Most importantly, why must one suffer in pain?
On Thursday, New Jersey is scheduled to vote on a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients, moving the state one step closer to allowing physician-assisted dying for terminally ill patients.
New Jersey Assembly Democratic majority spokesman Tom Hester Jr. confirmed that the bill —known as the “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act” — would go up on Thursday, making it the second time this year that Democrats will attempt to pass the bill. In June, the bill was scheduled to be voted upon but was pulled from consideration at the last minute because of a lack of support.
Nevertheless, support has actually risen depending on how the question is presented. A May 2014 Gallup survey found that 70 percent of Americans are in favor of allowing doctors to speed up a terminally ill patient’s death when the matter is described as allowing doctors to “end the patient’s life by some painless means.” At the same time, only 51 percent of people support physician-assisted dying when the process is described as doctors helping a patient “commit suicide.”
Before rushing to judge those who are battling terminal illnesses, we should all put ourselves in their shoes. Don’t all people have a moral right to choose freely what they will do with their lives as long as they inflict no harm on others? Aren’t we all entitled the right of free choice?