By Patti Brooks
Brittany Maynard’s historic joint partnership with Compassion & Choices to expand access to death with dignity nationwide has sparked a national conversation about end-of-life choice.
In fact, since our campaign launch on Oct. 6, Brittany has inspired at least 20 newspapers in 11 states to editorialize in support of the medical practice of aid in dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.
Below are excerpts of the 20 editorials in alphabetical order of the 11 states.
Los Angeles Times, “Editorial: California should revive right-to-die legislation,” Oct. 30, 2014
“Many people do not want their final days to be marked by the loss of physical and mental abilities, the inability to draw full breaths or weeks spent in a haze of painkillers — or worse, in pain that palliative care does not fully alleviate. Right-to-death laws do not impose death on the very sick. Rather, they allow people who face imminent death to do so peacefully and without agony. Society should not rob them of that right.”
The Sacramento Bee, Editorial, “A message of hope before dying,” Nov. 4, 2014
“Brittany Maynard’s death Saturday ripped open a national debate that had been brewing since the 29-year-old with terminal brain cancer moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of that state’s right-to-die law. It’s a debate long overdue: whether a dying person has a right to control how that dying occurs.
“We think they should, and hope Maynard’s bravery during the last weeks of her life will be a catalyst for rational laws that allow people who have been given a death sentence by an illness the ability to escape the pain and indignities of the final days, should they choose.”
The [San Jose] Mercury News, Editorial, “Brittany Maynard proved need for California Death with Dignity law,” Nov. 6, 2014
“The saddest part of Maynard’s death was that she was forced to move from her Bay Area home to Portland to fulfill her wish.
“California needs a Death With Dignity law similar to Oregon’s Measure 16, passed by voters in 1997, or the state of Washington’s Initiative 1000, approved in 2008.
“…The CMA [California Medical Association] opposition is hypocritical. Doctors know firsthand the indignity of dying hooked up to tubes in a hospital. They personally opt overwhelmingly for hospice care, choose to die at home and reject CPR [cardio pulmonary resuscitation] and other expensive end-of-life intrusions that so many nonmedical people endure. Used on the terminally ill, these tactics prolong life only briefly and add billions needlessly to our nation’s health care costs.
“And doctors know well that in some cases, it’s just not possible to eliminate or even manage a dying patient’s pain.”
“It’s time for California to try again. Polls show more than two-thirds of Americans now support physician-assisted suicide for patients who have a terminal illness and want to end their lives without pain.
“Oregon’s law has not seen the abuses its opponents predicted. It has accounted for only one-fifth of 1 percent of all deaths in the state. The average age of those who choose this option is about 70. The law is being used by precisely those it was intended to help.
“And it includes important safeguards: two doctors must agree that a patient has less than six months to live, and patients seeking a prescription have to show they’re competent to make medical decisions. For these people and their families, having the option to choose to end life on their own terms is a comfort that should be available to all. Without having to pack up and move to Portland.”
The [Hartford] Courant, Editorial, “Right-To-Die Law Would Be A Dignified Move,” Oct. 10, 2014
“Brittany Maynard, a California resident, recently moved to Oregon for her last weeks of life so she could die on her terms … She and her husband moved to Oregon…because California has no aid-in-dying law. Neither does Connecticut, and this state ought to …
“How sad that Connecticut, like too many states, refuses to recognize that terminally ill people who want to control the timing and manner of their demise should be able to do so …
“Ms. Maynard, as she approaches death, fights for the right to meet it with autonomy and dignity.
“Cannot the Connecticut legislature ensure the same for our state’s residents?”
The [Norwich] Bulletin, Editorial, “Our View: Terminally ill deserve a choice,” Nov. 6, 2014
“Brittany Maynard died last Saturday at her home in Portland, Ore. She was 29. Maynard suffered from terminal brain cancer, diagnosed on New Year’s Day of this year and given only six months to live. She moved with her husband to Oregon from California to take advantage of Oregon’s Death with Dignity law, which allowed her to take her own life …
“In Connecticut today, the terminally ill don’t get a choice.”
The Des Moines Register, Editorial, “She met death on her own terms because state gave her the right,” Nov. 8, 2014
“Shouldn’t we all have the option of deciding for ourselves how many days we want to spend in the final throes of a terminal illness? In a country that prides itself on personal liberty, shouldn’t our freedom extend to making decisions about the final moments of our lives?
“But only people living in Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont can legally exercise such a freedom. It’s time to talk about extending the privilege to 46 other states. Perhaps the story of a brave 29-year-old woman from California will inspire those conversations.”
Iowa State Daily, Editorial, “People must be free to ‘die with dignity’,” Nov. 11, 2014
“The decision to take her own life was one that nobody could make besides Brittany Maynard. Nobody else knew what she was going through personally and how she was dealing with living with terminal cancer. Maynard died peacefully in her bed with her husband and family by her side …
“The choice to make these decisions would more than likely be the toughest decision anyone has to make, but it is a choice that people deserve to make. We are allowed to make the decision to abort a fetus and to put down a pet, but when it comes to taking one’s own life, the people that help someone seek the peace that comes from death would be punished by the law.
“While it can be understood that not everyone who is dying would want to take his or her own life, people deserve to be able to make the decision. If they choose to have their families with them, they should not have to worry about being punished.”
The [Mankato] Free Press, Editorial, “Minnesota should revisit the issue of [aid in dying],” Nov. 4, 2014
“Maynard was the perfect spokesperson for the large majority of Americans who see the right to choose one’s end as a personal right that needs to be legally recognized. She was young, articulate and calmly and rationally spoke about how and why she had come to the decision to end her own life before her cancer led to a painful death …
“Before her death, Maynard boiled down the debate over the law simply. ‘The freedom is in the choice,’ she said. ‘If the option of [aid in dying] is unappealing to anyone for any reason, they can simply choose not to avail themselves of it. Those very real protections are already in place.’
“Five states allow patients to seek aid in dying. Minnesota lawmakers should talk with their residents about whether they want a similar law here.”
The [Columbia] Daily Tribune, Editorial, “How to die: On our own terms, that’s how,” Nov. 17, 2014
“Too often today sick people and loved ones – and society in general – insist physicians do everything possible to keep an ailing patient alive even when hanging on is bad for all concerned. We all know of people in comas, in vegetative states, who are maintained indefinitely at great expense and trauma to loved ones. More common are people so old and mentally deficient their lives are a burden.
“We all can imagine similar scenarios.
“In such cases, everyone hangs on – for what? Would it not be better if, with everyone’s consensus, an earlier decision would be made to peacefully end life at an appropriate moment? With a physician’s instruction, a simple dose could be taken at bedtime, like a sleeping pill. This sort of goodbye could be much more pleasant for everyone.”
The [Newark] Star-Ledger, Editorial, “New Jersey is the next platform for the right-to-die debate: Editorial,” Nov. 8, 2014
“… The next battleground in the right-to-die debate is likely to occur around our Legislature and our kitchen tables.
“The New Jersey bill, like the law in five other states, is for patients with the capacity to make end-of-life decisions in the last six months of their lives. There are protections against family, against psychological duress and mental incompetence, against inept physicians and unscrupulous health facilities, even against the patient’s uncertainty. But the law, in effect, is protection against government seizing ownership of decisions that most deem personal, as all polls show.
“So a frank discussion must begin, starting with the affirmation that many people would choose death over senseless suffering. They already sign living wills to withhold life-extending treatments. They take lethal doses of morphine to fight pain, knowing it will hasten the end.
“This law would sanction an act of humanity, because the state’s only role should be to allow people their profoundly personal choices, especially the choice to die with dignity.”
Press of Atlantic City, Editorial, “Aid in dying for terminally ill / Pass the bill,” Nov. 11, 2014
“If you have never experienced the slow, painful death of a loved one who has no chance of surviving, you are among the lucky few. If you have experienced it, you have a difficult time understanding how anyone could object to a law such as the one Burzichelli is proposing.
“Which is probably why opposition to such measures often takes such an odd, abstract turn.
“Foes of abortion are the major opponents of [aid in dying]. And this summer, the anti-abortion website LifeNews.com trumpeted a report that said Gov. Chris Christie has pledged to veto Burzichelli’s bill.
“That’s a shame. This careful written bill has nothing to do with abortion. It is about one thing only: Ending pain and suffering for people who have no hope of recovery.
“Under the measure, patients over 18 who have a prognosis of six months or less to live would be able to obtain life-ending drugs that they would administer themselves …
“Christie has shown he is capable of great compassion, particularly regarding those who suffer from the disease of addiction. Aid in dying for the terminally ill deserves no less compassion. Polls show more than 60 percent of New Jersey residents favor such a measure.
“No doubt if Christie would signal his support of Burzichelli’s bill, the Legislature would find the courage to approve it. Here’s hoping.”
The [Newark] Star-Ledger, Editorial, “At life’s end, who should decide when to quit,” Nov. 12, 2014
“When faced with certain death, many people would prefer to avoid the last few days or weeks of intense pain and discomfort that comes with diseases like cancer.
“The core policy question is this: Why should the government intrude on that decision?
“We pass no judgment here on the morality of suicide. But the discussion should begin with an honest acknowledgement that [aid in dying] is already a fact of life in New Jersey hospitals and in home hospice care, where patients receive lethal doses of morphine and other painkillers routinely.
“The Catholic Church, like many who oppose this measure, cites the intention. If the aim is to control the pain, then taking or giving a lethal dose of morphine is considered morally acceptable. But if the intention is to cut short a life, it is not.
“We have no quibble with any religion’s take on this, and neither does the sponsor of this measure, Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester).
“His bill offers explicit protections to any doctor or hospital with moral objections. They are free to follow their own religious code. But why, he asks, should the law impose that code on everyone else?
“… Burzichelli believes New Jersey can do better by people in that bind. We wholeheartedly agree.”
The Trenton Times, “Editorial: N.J. Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill is an act of compassion,” Nov. 21, 2014
“During an emotional session before last week’s vote, lawmakers shared stories of watching family members die, feeling helpless in the face of great suffering and pain …
“Maynard, 29, moved from California to Oregon last year after a diagnosis of incurable brain cancer. She knew her future held the stuff of nightmares: seizures, loss of bodily function and pain. Intractable, unremitting pain.
“In addition to personal courage, Maynard’s decision entailed enormous upheaval. It meant establishing residency in a new and unfamiliar state, finding new physicians, searching for a new home and even changing her voter registration – time-consuming chores when time was a precious commodity.
“No one should have to face these daunting obstacles …
“Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), who introduced the bill after watching his sister die of lung cancer last year, believes Maynard’s odyssey helped sway public opinion in favor of the measure. If so, what a remarkable legacy.
New Hyde Park Illustrated, Editorial, “Editorial: Death With Dignity?” Nov. 13, 2014
“If we can euthanize pets to end their suffering, why can’t humans have that same option? It is not murder by a doctor or suicide by the patient.
“Put yourself in her shoes: If you knew you had six months or less to live, and bouts of misery and suffering were sure to consume the person you once were, wouldn’t you want to have control over your own life?
“Maynard did not want to die. She viewed her decision as a way to end her life on her terms. She fulfilled her bucket list and said her goodbyes to family and friends before taking a fatal dose of barbiturates, prescribed to her by a doctor, to end her suffering. In the end, she did not let cancer win.
“If we can pull the plug on life support, why are we pulling the plug on the right to die?
“There is always a chance for a miracle. But for those who don’t believe one is coming, what option do they have?
“Sometimes, it’s better to decide your own fate instead of waiting for God.”
Ashland Daily Tidings, Editorial, “Your vote does matter,” Nov. 5, 2014
“Just a few days before Tuesday’s election, the passing of a brave young woman brought home the importance of voting.
“If Maynard had kept her decision private, as she had every right to do, she would have been just one of the 752 nameless Oregonians who have quietly ended their lives by taking a doctor-prescribed dose of barbiturates since the law first took effect in 1994. Only six were younger than 35.
“But she made another decision: to announce her plans publicly in an effort to support the campaign to enact death-with-dignity laws elsewhere…
“The point here is not Maynard’s decision to die on her own terms, but the law that allowed her that choice. She moved to Oregon because California law does not permit [death with dignity]. Oregon does because voters in this state approved the law — not once, but twice. If it had been up to legislators to do it, they might still be arguing about it.
“So the next time you feel tempted to complain that voting doesn’t matter, remember Brittany Maynard.”
Corvallis Gazette-Times, “Editorial: Maynard’s death with dignity could ignite national discussion,” Nov. 5, 2014
“The discussion is long overdue. Is Oregon better off for having this particular discussion two decades ago? Absolutely …
“Maynard’s case could help to renew a national discussion about how we die. That’s a discussion that would serve to honor her remarkable life.”
Philadelphia Daily News, Editorial, “DN Editorial: Go Gentle,” Nov. 4, 2014
“It has been 20 years since Oregon adopted the nation’s first Death with Dignity law, allowing physicians to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients. And it has been 17 years since the legal challenges were defeated and the law took effect.
“That’s more than enough time to conclude that the law has not led to a rash of coerced suicides by family members tired of taking care of Granny. It did not lead to a rash of anything, in fact …
“The data should also empower political leaders in other states to restart the public debate about whether dying people have the right to consciously choose how they live, or don’t, in their final days.”
The [Pittsburgh] Duquesne Duke, “Staff editorial: Death with dignity in Oregon provides learning,” Nov. 5, 2014
“Maynard’s choice was just that, a choice; something many other Americans don’t have when it comes to death with dignity …
“We are not advocating Brittany Maynard’s decision nor are we advocating against it. We are however standing by Maynard’s choice and the right to that …
“To put it bluntly, you should have the final say of your body before anyone else.”
Waco Tribune-Herald, Editorial, “Tragedies Far and Near Remind us of Society’s Need to Humanely Assist Individuals Near the End,” Nov. 9, 2014
“Last weekend’s highly publicized death of pretty 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who moved from California to Oregon to legally end her life when brain cancer made conditions unbearable, revived the issue nationally. Last Monday it struck home when an ailing McGregor man reportedly shot his 77-year-old wife to death to end what police say was her torment from leukemia …
“Both tragedies highlight the need for greater debate about so-called ‘death with dignity’ laws and when, how and under what circumstances such deaths can be permitted. Obviously, it won’t do to have people shooting loved ones, especially given the fact that in today’s society such deeds could easily be employed for malevolent purposes …
“People should draw up living wills and advance directives when they’re healthy — not when they’re ailing. And some doctors and other health care professionals could benefit from training in how to lead end-of-life discussions with tact and truthfulness. Such consultations need not happen when the patient is on death’s door but, if possible, weeks or months earlier so all can better prepare for the end.”
Southern Utah University News, Editorial, “Death with Dignity Debate,” Nov. 16, 2014
“We believe death with dignity should be an option in all states, but it is a choice that should not be taken lightly. We respect Maynard’s right to die on her own terms. It’s something she has obviously thought through and has discussed with her close friends and family.
“It’s also not a rash decision she just made; Oregon’s laws require a lengthy process for acquiring the medication for [aid in dying], giving people plenty of time to think through their decision.”