Six months to live: How would you deal with it?

newspaperI just read the heartbreaking first-person account of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old newlywed who in April was told that the cause of her months of progressively worsening headaches was caused by a brain tumor, and that even with aggressive treatment she may only have six months to live.

Six months, of course, would be coming up right about now. Maynard decided against the aggressive treatments in favor of dying with dignity, citing her desire to go out on her own terms, to the point where she and her husband packed up their belongings and moved to Oregon, one of five states where death with dignity is legal.

“I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms,” Maynard wrote in a first-person essay published on

For Maynard, her own terms are not in hospice, not enduring months of debilitating chemotherapy, not putting herself or for her more importantly her family, her friends, her husband, through that process.

“I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity,” Maynard said. “My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don’t deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?”

Under terms of the Oregon death with dignity law, Maynard is able to request and receive a prescription from a physician that she can self-ingest to end her life.

“Now that I’ve had the prescription filled and it’s in my possession, I have experienced a tremendous sense of relief. And if I decide to change my mind about taking the medication, I will not take it,” Maynard said. “Having this choice at the end of my life has become incredibly important. It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty and pain.”

Me, personally, I’d like to think that I’d want to fight for every last breath that I could inhale, but that’s again just me. I should have the right to fight for life, and Brittany Maynard should have the ability to decide that she wants to do what is best for her.

Should the state have the right to tell her that she has to endure unfathomable pain, put her family through unimaginable emotional pain, on top of the fact that their loved one is dying before their eyes, just … because?

Tough question. When it comes down to it, life is all we have.

– Column by Chris Graham

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