Brittany Maynard’s Death-With-Dignity: Quality Over Quantity of Life

By Giang Nguyen, Class of 2018

For the past few weeks, the media has been buzzing over the controversy surrounding Brittany Maynard’s death-with-dignity. Brittany was a 29-year-old terminally ill woman diagnosed with brain cancer on Jan. 1, 2014. She moved with her family from California to Oregon for the latter state’s Death-with-Dignity Act. In her final days, she partnered with the nonprofit organization, Compassion & Choices, to advocate legalizing physician-assisted suicide. Nov. 1 2014, Brittany, with medication prescribed by her doctor, decided to end her life.

Immediately following her death, however, people condemned Maynard’s choice. A Vatican official even called her assisted death “an absurdity”.

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Brittany Maynard ended her life on 1 Nov. with prescribed medicine by her doctor. (Photo Courtesy of Zennie Abraham)

The truth is, I do not think suicide is a resolution for anything. I do, however, believe that a person has a right to end his or her own life. Maynard wrote in her letter to CNN, “After months of research, my family and I reached a heartbreaking conclusion: There is no treatment that would save my life, and the recommended treatments would have destroyed the time I had left.” Why then, should Brittany be condemned for her intended death when she already knew that her quality of life, as she knew it, would be gone?

I have a strong conviction that there are many people out there, including Brittany and me, who would prefer quality over quantity in life. Rather than going through chemotherapy or an invasive surgery, singeing off all the hairs on her scalp, completely changing her outside appearance, or even risking losing herself as a person, Brittany chose to live her last days to the fullest. Consequently, she avoided letting cancer end her life; instead, she became the one to end her cancer.

People who commit suicide are usually blamed for leaving their beloved ones with wounds that cannot be healed, for disregarding all responsibilities they have towards their family members and friends, for disrespecting the role they may have played in others’ lives. Brittany’s situation is not a parallel to this. She did not intentionally break her family apart; she was responsible for her beloved ones; and most of all, she treasured her life. Instead of lying helplessly in a hospital in California, letting the malignant tumors gradually eat her brain and her body, making her family and friends see that heart-tearing image of her, she decided to spend the most precious time of her life with her family, fulfilling her bucket list by visiting the Grand Canyon. In her final stages of life, Brittany volunteered to advocate for access to Death-with-Dignity. All her thoughts, behaviors, and emotions proved that she loved her family, her friends, and herself.

There is no argument as to whether suicide is good or bad. It is obviously an action that needs to be socially looked down upon, but this very incident with Maynard is a very unique one. Quality over quantity — Maynard chose to live last few days of her life to the fullest and ended her life in a manner that did not result in the consequences that suicide usually ensues.

As for Brittany Maynard, rest in peace. You will be showered in love and respect, forever.

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