The question of whether or not a terminally ill person facing a painful, undignified death can choose to end their life by some sort of approved technique (such as a self or perhaps physician administered dose of a drug like a barbiturate or opiate designed to produce a painless death) has again been thrust into public view by the life and death of Brittany Maynard. She was a 29 year-old woman who had moved to Oregon from California after learning that she was afflicted with a an uncurable form of brain cancer which would lead to a painful death. Oregon allows patients with terminal conditions to seek a prescription for a lethal dose of a drug from a licensed physician, which the patient must self-administer. The patient must be mentally competent and able to clearly communicate their desire for the drug. Oregon is one of four states in the U.S. which have right-to-die laws, the other three being Washington, Montana, and Vermont.
Brittany took advantage of the last few months of her life to travel with her family and publicly advocate for death-with-dignity laws She was known to all her friends as a person who always brought joy and happiness with her and was a very “photogenic” young woman. From what I’ve heard Sam Tabar tell me, her personalty and appearance allowed her message to reach the general public, and she handled her notoriety with a great deal of dignity. However divided the public opinion on the question of right-to-die laws may be, there seems to be general respect for her. She had begun to suffer from the terminal nature of her condition, and was able to leave her family and friends with a pleasant image of her.