A Patient’s Right to Die

assited 3Imagine…your doctor finished explaining that you have a terminal illness.  You have months to maybe over 1 year to live; a life possibly filled with pain and loss of functionality.  What do you do?  Where do you go from here?

This scenario happened to 29-year-old Brittnay Maynard who was diagnosed with a terminal brain cancer called Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM).  Brain tumors typically arise by themselves (de novo) or as a result of cancer elsewhere in the body (metastases).  In Brittnay’s case, cialis canada nurse hers arose de novo.  GBM is an extremely aggressive and most common form of adult brain cancer.  These types of tumors lie extensively within the center of the brain, cialis usa sovaldi making a “butterfly” formation which is quite difficult to operate.  The signs and symptoms of GBM usually present 3 months prior with extensive, consistent headaches, progressive motor weakness and/or loss, seizures, nausea/vomiting, and overall cognitive impairment.  The prognosis for GBM is quite bleak with older individuals dying sooner and an average survival length of 12 months; however, there are outliers who survive longer and completely but the statistics are low.  GBM is treated with a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.  Anyone who’s had cancer or relatives with cancer knows the process is arduous, painful, and filled with uncertainty.  This is the odds Brittnay Maynard was faced with.

assisted 1Originally Mrs. Maynard decided to end her life via Oregon’s Right to Die Law on November 1st, but her plans have recently changed.  Regardless, her decision has sparked a debate that is highly controversial socially and in the medical field: physician – assisted suicide and euthanasia.

The difference in terminology between euthanasia and assisted suicide is slight.  Euthanasia is where the physician actively injects the patient with lethal medication and this is currently illegal in the US.  Physician – assisted suicide is where the physician only prescribes medication for the patient to take on their own; this is currently legal in Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont.

As an aspiring physician, we’re taught to respect a patient’s autonomy in making their own decisions while making sure their treatments and life does not undergo unnecessary harm.  Hmmm…sometimes this places us in quite a pickle, don’t you think?  I personally support a patient’s right to die, whether it be by euthanasia or physician – assisted suicide.  I understand the legal, moral, ethical, religious debates surrounding this issue; it is not black and white.  There is a lot of murky waters surrounding this, and as a future physician, I think it would be my duty to help my patients in any way; after all, that is what I swear to in the Hippocratic Oath.  However, I do not support using these methods as an easy way to commit suicide for those who need psychiatric counseling or those who plainly want to commit suicide.  This should be used for those currently facing a terminal sentence with their illness, such as Huntingtons, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), severe dementia/Alzheimers, or brain cancers, and like Mrs. Maynard, they should be counseled prior to make sure they understand the implications of their decision.assisted 2

Many are criticizing young Mrs. Maynard for her choices and saying that she should fight, and maybe she should, but it’s ultimately her decision on the best way to conduct her life.  Instead of criticism, why don’t we show support and admire her courageousness for making such a difficult decision? We know her decision was not easy.  Thinking about death is never an easy concept to grasp and it’s downright scary.  She and her family are conducting themselves with such grace and certainty and I admire them.  I support your decision, Brittnay Maynard, whether it is today, tomorrow, or in the future.  :)

I would love to hear your thoughts. Happy reading :)

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