Students discuss ‘death with dignity act’ controversy


A photo of Brittany Maynard used in her public obituary

One of America’s recent hot topics is the purposeful death of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard under Oregon’s ‘death with dignity act’. This act allows terminally-ill  patients to voluntarily end their life through self-administered lethal medications. The story stirred up much controversy because of the fact that the medications are legally prescribed by a physician aware of their intended use.

 Maynard and her family moved from California to Oregon once she had made her decision, Oregon being one of only three states authorizing the ‘death with dignity act’. A CNN article stated that “Maynard said she had stage IV glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of terminal brain cancer” which inspired her final decision. “I quickly decided that death with dignity was the best option for me and my family,” she stated  in a CNN opinion article.

Many responding articles were published by Brittany’s supporters, yet there were those who completely disagreed with this decision and the fact that it was actually legal. However, West seniors Emma Papineau and Anne Riley both agreed with the availability of medication that made Brittany’s decision. “She would’ve killed herself anyway even if she wasn’t able to obtain the medication,” Riley said, “and it’s her decision what she wants to do with her life.” Papineau’s statement was similar, stating that it was ultimately Brittany’s decision, and that people should respect that decision.

The state of Oregon, as well as the other two states where “death with dignity act’ is available keep the records of those who have choses to use the act, and those who have died with it each year. Oregon’s public health site, which tracks the act’s use, stated “As of January 22, 2014, prescriptions for lethal medications were written for 122 people during 2013 under the provisions of the DWDA, compared to 116 during 2012 . At the time of this report, there were 71 known DWDA deaths during 2013. This corresponds to 21.9 DWDA deaths per 10,000 total deaths.”

In 2013, 122 were able to take control of their lives, and the Oregon’s, Washington’s, and Vermont’s  ‘death with dignity act’ will allow people to continue to do so.