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.