Right to die with dignity

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Individuals facing a terminal illness should have the right to die with dignity, whether that means choosing to live until the very end or choosing to take medications to end their lives on their own terms. The End of Life Option Act, which is currently up for debate in the Maryland legislature, would allow physicians to legally prescribe lethal medicine to mentally competent individuals with less than 6 months to live. The law empowers individuals to make a choice at end-of-life that best fits with their personal views, ethics, and morality and to have autonomy in their own bodies.

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Maryland would join Vermont, Oregon, and three other states with aid-in-dying legislations. Oregon’s aid in dying legislation is seen as the model for other states, with research showing that Oregon’s legislation has led to improved end-of-life care in general, including improved pain management, psychiatric treatment and palliative care. Furthermore, Oregon tracks these requests and has not seen any coercion or abuse in the 20 years the provision has been legal. The Maryland law reflects similar safeguards aimed at protecting vulnerable populations, with patients required to be mentally competent, to administer the medication themselves and to request the prescription at least three times.

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Individuals facing immense suffering at the end of a terminal illness do not have much power to make decisions. They did not choose to have these illnesses or prognoses, and they did not choose to experience increasing pain and decreasing ability to manage daily tasks. But with the End of Life Option Act, individuals can choose what they want to happen at the end of life.

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8 Responses to “Right to die with dignity”

  1. thestickyword Says:

    What do critics of this proposed law contest? How might the law be regulated in Maryland differently than in other states? There have been some recent interesting discussions on this via NPR lately.

  2. shivanip1892 Says:

    Great post, thank you sharing such a controversial topic. It is interesting to think about the lengths that a person who is terminally ill may got to in terms of ending their life. In other words, if someone who is terminally ill really wanted to die, they would find a way to do so. I do not mean to sound morbid but I feel that this could be the case for individuals who truly have no desire to live.

    On the other hand, to what extent and absolute certainty can a doctor say that an individual has less than 6 months to live? Do we base the decision on scientific basis that to some capacity has the chance of being incorrect?

  3. oyintayo Says:

    For an issue as personal as one’s own life and death, the choice of how you might die is one of the most personal decisions an individual should have the right to make and denying people of this right is synonymous to denying them of their fundamental human right but just like @shivanip 1892 mention, this is a controversial issue which appears to be of benefit to those ill and even though this people are mentally competent, they might not be in the right frame of mind to make such delicate decisions that will impact the lives of people around them. There is a possibility that these patients were wrongly diagnosed thereby increasing their likelihood of recovering and as a result voluntarily taking their lives would have denied them of such opportunity. Also, euthanasia will be unnecessary once there is an extraordinary palliative care system. Therefore, weighing both sides and putting strict measures in place is important before passing a bill that will affect lives and is likely to increase the rate of non-voluntary euthanasia.

  4. mmmengxu Says:

    WOW!!! This advocacy reminds me of one case from medical ethics class I learned in medical school. The case happened in China. In 1986, Mingcheng Wang helped do euthanasia to his mom who suffered from cancer, while he got caught by the police, accused of murder. Later, he got acquittal after the review conference in Supreme Court. Seventeen years later, he got into terminal gastric cancer and asked for euthanasia, while was refused. He died with extreme pain in the end. His case brought a heated debate about if China should make euthanasia legitimated. When I learned this case, I disagreed with the legislation to euthanasia. Given China’s legal environment, if euthanasia is legitimated, people could possibly use any small legal loophole to murder, escape the responsibilities of taking care of the older and the sick, escape to pay for their sick parents, escape the liability for medical accident, et al. I also thought it was hard to tell if a person is mentally competent when he or she is in pain, when the patient asks to die. Chinese filial piety culture and the country’s unsound legal supervision system, make the legislation on euthanasia impossible. While, if this happens in Maryland or other states, I can agree with the advocacy that people have the right to die with dignity, if the legal environment is sound, and the mutual supervision and programmed implementation are well designed. Euthanasia is a choice, sometimes the only best choice for people struggle at the end of their life to die with dignity, and it is also a choice for some people who do not want their family to spend meaningless expensive medical expense on saving their lives. I read one piece of news thirteen years ago that an old lady leampt to her own death for she did not want her chronic heart disease to encumber her children, which is extremely sad. I think if our country has strong social security system and sound legal environment, we could avoid these tragedies by issuing laws like “End of Life option”, without worrying about the following consequences.

  5. Fátima Reynolds Says:

    This is a great topic! It raises some interesting questions. Governments are obligated to protect the dignity of their citizens, but does this right to dignity in life extend to the circumstances of death? Does the government’s duty to respecting individual freedom and autonomy mean it cannot infringe on a person’s autonomous decision to die in the manner they choose?

  6. Emma Says:

    As someone who works in the mental health research, I am conflicted about the “Right to Die” laws. On the one hand, I understand why someone with a painful terminal illness with just a few months left to live chooses to end their lives. They are in immense suffering they cannot recover from.

    On the other hand, the “mentally competent” aspect makes me wary. When someone is suffering from a severe depression and is suicidal, mental health professionals treat the situation as an emergency. We treat their desire to end their life as a very serious symptom of the mental illness that it is. While people commit suicide for different reasons, having a mental illness places an indvidual at a very high risk (http://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/). For these reasons, it is hard to imagine many mental health professionals evaluating someone and declaring that person is mentally competent yet wanting to kill themselves.

    Finally, I’m concerned with what makes it okay in the eyes of medical professionals for some sick people to want to die and but not okay for other sick people (ie those with mental illnesses)? Is it just that one group has a terminal illness? I suppose I can understand that. I don’t want this to turn into a slippery slope where we start re-evaluating how we treat suicidal ideation for people who are not mentally competent,

  7. baldeepkdhaliwal Says:

    I completely agree with this post, as I do believe that an individual has the right to make their own decision on whether or not they want to continue living. While this is obviously a difficult issue for the family members of this person, only the individual that is actually experiencing the pain can make this decision. For example, a good friend’s mother was suffering from pancreatic cancer, here in Maryland, for several months. His mother had made it extremely clear that she was in immense pain and was essentially waiting to pass. It was extremely difficult to see my friend, who supported her decision, have to see his mother suffer until the day she died.

    My biggest question from this topic though is what are some opposing views to this? When an adult has made a decision to end their life, to end their misery, why would the state intervene and prevent them? Additionally, if there are a significant number of opposing perspectives, how could the legislation process used to enable this bill to pass in other states be implemented here in Maryland?

  8. kgonzal7 Says:

    This is a great post! I find the topic interesting and can see how it can be highly controversial. I agree that individuals have a natural right to choose when to die if diagnosed with a terminal illness. This is particularly important if the individual would endure an extreme amount of suffering, mentally and physically leading up to a natural death. I know you mentioned a couple of states that had already passed the law allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication. I was wondering how the regulation of such prescriptions was monitored and if any problems arose in doctors over prescribing the medications? It would also be interesting to evaluate the psychosocial impacts amongst the patient and their family when making the decision to take medications to end their life.

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