Freedom in Choosing Death


Jones, Nicole

Christy O’Donnell, pictured here, is a terminally-ill patient and Santa Clarita native advocating for doctor-assisted death.

Gamin Kim, Staff Writer

Brittany Maynard, a terminally ill patient with brain cancer, quickly gained media attention last year when she moved her residence from California to Oregon because Oregon provided a policy called the Death with Dignity Act. The Death with Dignity Act allows patients to voluntarily end their life by self-administration of lethal doses of medication. Maynard desired the choice of choosing death by voluntary euthanasia as she had only months to live with each day a new wave of pain and agony. The 29-year old told her widower, Dan Diaz, “I won’t be living those days; I will be suffering.” Brittany ended her life peacefully on Nov. 1, when she decided the agony from her brain cancer was just too much to endure for another couple of months.

Christy O’Donnell is another patient pictured as one of the main supporters of California’s pass to legalize doctor-assisted death. She sued California this year because the state would not allow the choice to end her own life voluntarily. O’Donnell, a Santa Clarita native, is a terminally-ill patient who was first diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2014. Knowing that her life will end very slowly and painfully, she wants California to give her and other terminally-ill patients the right to have a choice of a peaceful death with her family members beside. Regarding the topic of doctor-assisted death, the cases with Brittany Maynard and Christy O’Donnell have spurred the debate on whether patients should have the right to choose their death.

California was under fire for its controversial issue of legalizing doctor-assisted death as activists this summer pushed the state Senate to pass a bill similar to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act that would make California the fourth state in the United States to legalize so-called assisted “suicide.” The bill, however, was pulled out from California’s Assembly Health Committee in July and dissolved hopes for legalization any time in the near future.

Many people internationally support the idea of doctor-assisted death wholeheartedly and governments of countries such as Columbia, Germany, and Canada are also in the process of allowing doctor-assisted death. With people globally and supporters in California continuously willing to fight against the setbacks and to push forward, it is completely crucial to revisit the topic of people’s rights on death.

I won’t be living those days; I will be suffering.

— Brittany Maynard

A recent poll was conducted by the Economist as it asked people from 15 different countries such as Germany, Japan, Russia, and Australia about their view on doctor-assisted death. With 13 countries out of 15 had over 50 percent of people agreeing that doctor-assisted death should be allowed for terminally ill patients over 18, it is astounding to hear that laws regarding doctor-assisted suicide is still opposed in much of the U.S. with the exception of Oregon and three other states. With the majority of the countries agreeing with the use of doctor-assisted death, people should also have more than a single choice the way to approach death when in a painful and life-threatening situation.

Doctor-assisted death, or voluntary euthanasia, is when the doctor prescribes a lethal dose of medication for patients that are either suffering from a terminally ill disease or condition or is in great pain due to whatever suffering they are currently in. Some are against the idea of choosing death voluntarily using medication for the purpose of their painful condition because of the reason that voluntary euthanasia simply goes against their religious beliefs or for the sake that it is unethical and immoral. Others think that people are merely welcoming death due to their poor economic, financial, and harsh living conditions and are using the choice of voluntary euthanasia based on the assumption that doctor-assisted death would be significantly cheaper than, for example, going through chemotherapy and other cancer treatments continuously with medical bills soaring up. While ethics and morals are essential when questioning life, human dignity and an individual’s freedom and liberty of choice should also be taken into deeper context. As life should be a profound matter to discuss, the current situation of the patient and his or her willingness to end his or her life should be taken into a greater scope overall.

As doctor-assisted death is for the patients suffering from a terminally-ill condition or disease, an option should be provided that will enable patients the choice to end their life painless under their own will. The freedom to choose death should not be only available in select regions of the U.S. so that terminally-ill patients would have to move their residences from one state to another to be enabled a setting where the patient is allowed to choose the when and where of their last moments alive. With not everyone having the income or the necessities, patients’ choosing of death should not be governed by economic or living factors.  

A terminally-ill patient from a family with very little financial stability should not have to take a trip hundreds of miles from their home with sickness and medications transporting her from state to state to reach a destination where she can die peacefully. With the plan of doctor-assisted suicide making the choice costly, the family would be left with one member gone physically from their life and with no currency left to pay for their next electricity bill. The family should not have to suffer because of their decision to make their daughter die without additional misery. The family should not have to say that the passing of their daughter left their other child with no financial support of his upbringing. Death should always be of a time of reflection and thought of that person’s personal achievements and character; it should not be symbolized as the cause of another family member’s discomfort.