Evanson: The right to die


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Cancer is the broad term used to describe more than 100 different diseases in which damaged cells divide and spread uncontrollably, breaking down the body and causing organs to malfunction. This definition of cancer, though, isn’t enough to describe what it really is.

To those who have survived it, those who currently suffer, or those who have had witness firsthand, watching their loved ones slowly die — they will tell you cancer is more than a dictionary definition.
Cancer is the crying you hear on the phone after you tell a friend the unfortunate news from a positive blood test. Cancer is when you have to explain to your 3-year-old niece why her aunt lost all her beautiful auburn hair. Cancer is when you hold your terminally ill grandmother’s cold hand in the hospital while she tells you everything is going to be OK, even after hearing she has a few weeks to live.

On New Year’s Day of this year, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard went to the doctor after complaining of terrible headaches and found out the she had terminal brain cancer. Even after numerous surgeries, in April, Maynard was told by doctors that she had six months to live, possibly a few more months after going through brain radiation and other treatments. 

But she decided against the cancer treatments. Instead, she decided to end her life on her own terms.
After making this decision, Maynard and her family packed up all their belongings from their home in California and moved to Oregon, one of only five states in the country that allow terminally ill citizens to end their own life via prescription pills. On Nov. 1, she ended her suffering and died, surrounded by her loved ones in her own home.

Her family and the millions of people who have been following her story these past few weeks now grieve.

Maynard’s death has since prompted an important discussion nationally of what rights we have as American citizens to protect ourselves and our families from having to experience prolonged physical and emotional suffering.

“I can’t even tell you the amount of relief that it provides me to know that I don’t have to die the way it has been described to me, that my brain tumor would take me on its own,” Maynard said in an interview via thebrittanyfund.org, just weeks before her passing.

Currently, in 45 of the 50 states, you do not have the option to end your life the way Maynard did with professional medical assistance. The right to make a decision involving your own body is something every state in the country should honor.

There are many people in this country who would disagree. The main argument against the “Right-to-Die” initiative includes the opinion that people suffering from cancer should do as much as they can with medical procedures to extend their lives, whether it’s a few days or a few months.

They have the right to disagree with it personally, but their opinion shouldn’t take away the option from others who seek a peaceful death.

“When people criticize me for not waiting longer, or whatever they’ve decided is best for me, it hurts because I risk it every day that I wake up,” Maynard said

I cannot accurately describe how it feels to have cancer. I have never had it. But I have seen it happen to someone I loved dearly. At 15-years-old, I watched my grandmother transform from the sharp, quick-witted woman who covered me with kisses every time she saw me into a woman who didn’t remember my name or who I was.

I don’t know if my grandmother would have made the same decision that Maynard did, but I wish she would have had the option. Everyone should have the right to die without pain and suffering.

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