On Brittany Maynard, or the Right to Die is the Right to Be Free


Brittany Fund
Brittany Maynard Fund

A few years ago, while checking up on the older members of my extended family, I asked a relative if he had made any plans for long-term care in case his health went south on him. He looked at me and said, "I have a .357 Magnum." Messy, I thought, but effective. He's still going strong, and whatever I believe about a related need for long-term carpet-cleaning plans to match, I respect his decision to assert control over the time and terms of hs own demise.

That conversation came back to me this week amid the discussion, noted by Zach Weissmuller, over 29-year-old Brittany Maynard's (pictured) decision to move to Oregon from California to take advantage of that state's law allowing terminally ill residents access to medications specifically intended to end their lives. Providing a much neater option than that contemplated by my relative, that law makes it easier for somebody like Maynard, facing a painful, lingering death from  brain cancer, to go out instead in a manner of her choosing.

Well-spoken and obviously thoughful, Brittany Maynard has literally become the poster child—and video child (see below)—of the movement dedicated to expanding options available to people otherwise facing an unpleasant end. Specifically, this works out as the ability to seek medical assistance free of legal penalties for those who offer help. In Oregon, the Death with Dignity Act, enacted in 1997, "allows terminally-ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose." Doctors participate only at their own choosing—they're not compelled to help patients end their lives.

Which is to say, this is about the final choice that anybody can make, and freeing others to choose to offer asistance in achieving the chosen goal. That's about as libertarian as it gets.

Nobody has an obligation to check out early, and many of us are more concerned about expanding options for extending our lives than ending them. But we all have a right to end our lives—lives that we own—if we please, and the vagaries of health have been known to throw good reasons our way to do so for those of us who are inclined to exercise control in that arena. Allowing us to cooperate with others over the matter of freely chosen time and manner death respects our rights and expands our liberty.

It also may be just a bit easier on the carpet.

NEXT: Little Girl Points Crayon at Classmate, School Makes Her Sign Contract Promising Not to Kill Anyone

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  1. If looks could kill…

    1. They probably will.

      In Games Without Frontiers.

  2. Didnt someone point out that people only care about issues like this when they involve young, hot, white women?

    Because “right to die” isnt as heartstring/pursestring-pulling when its some old, cancerous biddy

    1. Changing granny’s diaper isn’t very sexy.

      1. Speak for yourself.

        1. Depends…

  3. Here’s an article about this that’s gonna make everyone pretty angry:…..t-suicide/

    Fuck you, Matt Walsh.

    1. I watched a coworker succumb to brain cancer. Over a year he went from an active guy who I played racquetball with every week to a shell of himself. He had every treatment and it didn’t help. His last few weeks were total agony but he soldiered on because he thought it was god’s plan for him.

      Because of his experience I told my wife that if I was ever diagnosed like him I was going to go on a serious drinking and drug fueled binge and enjoy what time I had left.

      This guy is a total asshole for thinking that people should be forced to suffer like that.

    2. those of us who oppose the Culture of Death

      So it’s some KULTUR WAR bullshit with him. What a complete fucking scumbag.

      1. Is he a Christian? If so, that’s a pretty bold statement from a member of a death cult.

        1. Christianity is a death cult?

          1. Well, it does have the sacrifice of a human being at the very center of it’s dogmas, so there’s that. Not to mention many Christians believe that Jesus will still return and conquer the world politically, putting to the sword billions of unbelievers. Lot’s of death there. So it might be proper to describe Christianity as a death cult.

            1. “Well, it does have the sacrifice of a human being at the very center of it’s dogmas”

              But that human being goes on to conquer death and offer the same to the rest of us.

              1. Only if you are willing to drink human blood and eat human flesh.

              2. According to Christianity, when does the human soul finally get to be free and experience perfect happiness? After you die. Death cult.

    3. I thought that was Welsh for a second.

      As for his statement…who cares if there’s nothing brave about suicide? She doesn’t have to be brave. People like this have no inkling of the idea of self-ownership.

      1. Look, she needs to suffer to the end, so that preeening cunt can have good feels about himself and what he thinks the role of what everyone else in society should be.

        What will happen to the collective and the common good if people can selfishly opt-out like that?

      2. Unfortunately, in a sick way, he does. He specifically denies it.

    4. We have free will but we do not own ourselves,

      Fuck you, asshole.

      1. You left out the worst part.

        But this is not anyone’s fate, because nobody writes the terms for their own existence. We have free will but we do not own ourselves, and we certainly cannot take ownership of ourselves by obliterating ourselves. That’s like trying to write a book with an eraser.

        We are given life, we take part in life, we participate in life, but we do not own our lives. We can’t take possession of our lives like a two-year-old grabbing a toy from his friend and shouting ‘Mine!’ Our lives are bigger than that, thank God. Your life is not some incidental occurrence, or an accidental mutation, or a meaningless cause in a long string of meaningless effects.

        1. I figured the whole thing was the worst part, but that sentence just jumped out at me. What an asshole.

          1. I don’t think asshole is sufficient to cover this.

            1. If there is anybody on this board predisposed to approve of Walsh’s nonsense, it would be me. Well, maybe Eddie, and then me. But, what is wrong with that guy?

              Instead of thinking about individual issues, he plays tuff gai in post after post. Spanking? Of course hitting your children will in no way send mixed messages. Here’s some word-play in lieu of an argument. Suicide? You’re a toddler for thinking that you own yourself. No, he won’t bother to even acknowledge the obvious counter-arguments. Instead, he lobs his grenade and then retreats into smug satisfaction.

              Marriage equality? I want to agree with him, but he can’t argue his way out of a paper bag. He gets hopelessly distracted by the terminology, and then insists that unless two things are the same, they cannot be equal. Equality implies identity. The painful idiocy of that argument makes me want to gay marry the next man I see.

        2. I kind of hope this guy ends up in a situation where he believes he is the position of the women he wants to suffer for his demented view of life.

          KULTURKONS have a serious infatuation/fetish with suffering. They love suffering and pain because it shows just how TUFF you are-and God! Don’t cross their invisible man in the sky!

        3. What absolute bullshit.

          If we don’t own ourselves, then who does own us?

          1. The Collective. We’re only renting the meat from them.

            1. Yeah that’s what plenty of them think.

              Like this guy:

              The American military is facing a serious personnel issue: More than two-thirds of today’s youth are too uneducated, have behavior issues, and are not physically fit enough for

              “We’re trying to make decision makers see this is a national-security matter ? and they need to prioritize it,” retired Maj. Gen. Allen Youngman told The Wall Street Journal. ”


              What the general is essentially saying is that people have an affirmative duty to maintain themselves in such a manner that maximizes their utility to be a resource to the state.

              1. “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

    5. “Matt Walsh is a blogger, writer, speaker, and professional truth sayer.”

      god, the lengths people go to try and dress-up the term “fun-employed”

    6. While, strictly speaking, he is right that the claims of bravery or fearlessness don’t really hold up (no, I’m not saying it’s cowardly; actions can be neutral), I have to agree that he’s a douche for thinking she oughtn’t have the right to her decision.

  4. This is one of those things that I can’t even comprehend the argument against. And of course, the argument goes away in a society that has a sane attitude towards drugs. If you can mail-order a hundred grams of morphine, there’s no more question about a humane method of suicide, is there?

    1. This is one of those things that I can’t even comprehend the argument against.

      Probably because your not an idiot.

      1. Let’s not be hasty.

        1. Forgive me if I’m a little quick to judgement.

      2. Ha! At first at thought you called warty and idiot and I thought “gee, somebody’s lookin’ for a rapid'”

        1. Raping! Damn phone

          1. Why are you phoning it in?

            1. Not all of us have jobs with computer access

        2. Rapid? You don’t rush a Warty Rapin’?

          You savor that.

      3. Oh yes he is. Don’t let the PhD fool you.

  5. About 10 years ago my father was afflicted with Guillain-Barre syndrom. One day he was at my house for my kid’s birthday party 48 hours later he was paralyzed from the neck down and needed a respirator to breathe.

    Since Guillain-Barre is so rare it took a week or so before they figured out exactly what was doing this to him.

    My biggest personal fear was that if this was permanent I was going to have to help my father end his own life somehow because I knew that he didn’t want to live life like that.

    I don’t think I have to elaborate here on all the reasons it would have been nice to have assisted suicide be a legal option. Instead since it was illegal, I would have not only dealt with the loss and guilt, but I would have had to worry about John Law coming down on me as well.

    p.s. He spent 3 months totally paralyzed. Then in about 2 weeks he recovered most of his mobility. Took him about 9 months of physical therapy to recover from the muscle atrophy from lying in bed for 3 months.

    1. Jesus. Is he fine now?

      And not that it matters, but he didn’t need physical therapy, he needed a barbell set.

      1. Moar squats

      2. Yeah he is fine. He is still freaked out by the whole experience. A couple years ago he passed out in a Walmart and when he woke up in the hospital he thought it was because of the Guillain-Barre again. When they told him it wasn’t he cried. As he said, 3 months is a long time to just sit and think on your life.

        No, he needed physical therapy to begin with. Literally not moving for 3 months tends to atrophy your body to the point where just sitting upright is exhausting. His weight loss was amazing.

        The other reason you don’t turn Guillain-Barre users loose on PT is because their nerve feelings don’t come back all at once. So you run the risk of them physically damaging themselves during PT because they don’t have the normal feedback telling themselves that something is wrong.

        Fucking crazy disease. He still blames getting it on the swine flu shot he got during the Carter administration.

        1. 1) It wasn’t Carter’s shot. If GB happens after a shot, it’s pretty soon afterward.

          2) GB is weird. What I don’t understand is why it ends at all.

          1. He voted for Carter (twice), so it isn’t because he hates Jimmy.

            I think that it was such a traumatic thing for him that he is looking for any sort of reason to explain why it happened to him.

            Agreed that GB is crazy strange disease. One of the hardest things for the family was that there is no “classic” version of the disease. People get various degrees of it (from numb fingers to full paralysis) and recover at various times and rates. Sucks to sit there for 3 months wondering if or when he will start to recover.

            During this whole ordeal we discovered that some great aunt of his (by marriage only, no blood relation) came down with GB during a cruise in the Mediterranean sea in the 1920’s. Not wanting to cause a panic with other passengers, they dumped her at the next port call and she spent months paralyzed in some hospital in Spain. She didn’t speak any spanish so she had no idea what was going on.

        2. He still blames getting it on the swine flu shot he got during the Carter administration.

          i got that shot, way back then. Couldn’t move my arm for 3 days.

          Just so all of you know, if I get that way permanently, I want to die in the most spectacular of ways, one that makes the news. I’ll leave it up to the group to decide how.

          1. Something involving black tar heroin and polar bears?

  6. You know what is really sick? Withdrawal of care is legal. You can extubate someone and watch them gasp until they die but you aren’t allowed to help them along. I’ve seen it take hours for a patient to expire after withdrawal, it is not a pretty thing. I’d give morphine to try to help, but some people had been in the hospital so long they had really high tolerances and it wouldn’t make any difference. It could be over in 30 seconds with assisted end of life care. Sad.

  7. I would distinguish between outright suicide and refusal of extraordinary measures. Between active killing and getting disconnected from the expensive machine that’s prolonging your life beyond what you’d want, and beyond what would be a natural lifespan in other contexts.

    Oh, and I would insist of fairly clear consent criteria – not just a relative testifying about how someone would *want* to live, but a living will or evidence of similar gravity.

    I know you don’t approve of the govt role in medical care, but so long as it has that role, it’s going to be trying to save money by “initiating conversations” about pulling the plug, which has the potential of overbearing the will of the vulnerable.

    1. To me the key criteria is what the person in question wants and what a doctor is willing to agree too (actually, I don’t care much for the licensing requirements but that’s another matter). That’s what liberty is about.

      1. To me the key criteria is what the person in question wants

        Unfortunately one of the reasons some are against state-assisted suicide is a fear that “what the person in question wants” has been manipulated by interested family members.

        Then add in the (what I think is somewhat legitimate) spectre of Total State Funded Care and again, now you’ve got a medical industry that may be that interested party.

        I don’t have a strong opinion about this, and I don’t know what the experience has been from some of the nations that have had assisted suicide. But I do think it’s something that should be considered when creating a framework.

    2. Yeah, the “he once said he didn’t want to be on a machine” stuff doesn’t cut it. If you want to refuse treatment, document it. I’m not cool with deciding that people want to be murdered based on hearsay.

      1. Not saving your life != Murdering you

        Emergency care has fallen into this odd position of being “expected”, which while I can understand the impulse behind it, is basically enslaving EMTs and ER doctors.

        One could just as easily look at it from the perspective “if you haven’t made arrangements to compensate people who can save your life, then they shouldn’t be compelled to help you”.

  8. Looks like she has an expensive purebred puppy. Should’ve spent all that money on a pistol or some heroin, apparently.

    1. And she should have used it on you.

    2. It looks like a photo taken well before January 2014, when she was diagnosed.

      Heroine, being illegal, is much riskier as far as being effective and not having been adulterated with something unpleasant.

      A pistol would be messy, not what I would want to leave for my loved ones.

      YMMV, as perhaps you don’t know or care what either method would leave your loved ones vulnerable to.

  9. So after getting married, I first stated experiencing the headaches.

    Me too.

  10. I don’t think she should commit suicide, but I also don’t think that government violence should be used to prevent her from doing so. Also, my main concern or worry about “right to die” laws is the possibility that people will be talked into committing suicide (by doctors, family members, etc.), when perhaps they aren’t really sure that they want to die. Eventually “Right to Die” becomes “Duty to Die”, enforced by law. After all, the world has limited resources, and shouldn’t those resources go to the young and healthy? I mean, you’ve had a good life, why not let someone else have a good life, now?

  11. Nobody has an obligation to check out earl

    However, once the state starts paying for your healthcare, it would be appreciated if you did.

  12. Silly question perhaps, but am I the only person who notices the insanity of having attempted suicide be illegal? How does it make sense, if the person finds their lot in life so atrocious that they’d kill themselves, to add legal problems to their predicament?

    1. The reality of it is the illegality of assisting someone in it.

      Those that want to do it in a dignified manner would like drugs to make it painless* and that usually requires a medical professional to administer or at least provide the drugs. Which is funny because my impression is that it’s progressives who would most likely support assisted suicide, but their panting love of regulation actually makes it more difficult.

      *if we can assist someone in suicide painlessly and with dignity using drugs, are they using different chemicals for the death penalty?

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