Embracing the Right to Die–The Secret is the Real Crime

We all have a right to live or as Thomas Jefferson so aptly put it, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But what happens when illness strikes and our quality of life becomes compromised by pain and suffering that is often incurable?

The End-of-Life Option bill (SB 128), was introduced in California this past January. Patterned after Oregon’s Death with dignity laws, the legislation would allow mentally competent, terminally ill adults to request medication from their doctor to achieve a peaceful death if their suffering becomes unbearable. Although it was passed in the Senate, the bill was held back by a handful of legislators on the Assembly Health Committee a couple of weeks ago but is now up for reconsideration in a special legislative session as Bill AB2x-15. Compassion and Choices is the national grassroots organization working to pass this and similar legislation throughout the country.

We all remember how Oregon’s Death with Dignity laws allowed Brittany Maynard to choose to die at the age of 29 on her own terms, in her own space and time. This was not what she wanted–no, she wanted to live–but it was the best course of action given the alternative of suffering a lingering and painful end. Instead she chose her own ending, with the love and support of her family after spending her last days enjoying the beauty of nature. This brave act helped us to consider another view of death as a matter of choice and control rather than an inescapable and brutal guillotine.

Brittany’s choice resonated with me and my past. Many years back, long before any Death with Dignity laws, I shared a house with four women as a college student. One day, my housemate Carol made an announcement, “My mother is going to die next Thursday at 7pm.” While this was shocking at first, we all came to support her mother’s decision as she had an incurable cancer with a bleak prognosis and horrible treatment options. When that Thursday had passed, the next morning Carol sat quietly at the kitchen table. I asked her how she was and she spoke of the finality of seeing her mother’s body left as a shell of the person she was. But there was no wailing, it was a peaceful grief after a peaceful end to a beautiful life. Carol made each of us swear to tell no one about the suicide for at least a year since we each could have been deemed an accessory to crime for our knowledge of the act.

Looking back I now know the real crime was our forced silence and secrecy. Now, so many years later, instead of hiding the truth, I hope our society is ready to embrace and protect the right to die, to support those who choose this path, when there is no better option. We will be stronger and better able to cherish life more deeply if we can.

If you would like to help keep this bill moving forward in California — SEND A LETTER IN SUPPORT OF ABX2 15 VIA THE WEB.

Or visit www.compassionandchoices.org to get involved in similar efforts in your state.

Has the Death with Dignity movement touched you in your life? In what ways?




About marthagw

This blog features news about my memoir, Nothing Like Normal, Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia, which was published by Black Opal Books in late 2015. In the meantime, it will also be a voice for myself and others who have faced mental health issues in their families or in their own lives. It will also feature my writing on a wide range of topics with original photos and posts. This is a new adventure for me so who knows what will appear! Join me on this journey and feel free to chime in.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Embracing the Right to Die–The Secret is the Real Crime

  1. MonaKarel says:

    My husband was treated for pancreatic cancer: surgery, then five months in hospitals and care centers not getting better, not getting worse. Miserable. When the decision was hospice care he came home, not to a facility. He had three more months, at first getting better then finally succumbing but he was able to go in peace, watching the dogs and land he loved.


  2. marthagw says:

    Thank you for reading my blog and sharing, Monica. I am so sorry for your loss but I’m glad that he had the peaceful passing that we are all entitled to. It is so nice to hear from you. Blessings and best wishes to you and your family.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s