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Brittany Maynard moved to Oregon from her home in California following her terminal brain cancer diagnosis so that she wouldn’t have to suffer at her death. She was 29 years old when she died.
Never in a million years did I think that I would have to contemplate my own death in my 30s, but I was diagnosed with brain cancer in the spring of 2015—at the age of 35.
End of life options affect young people too.
In November, Colorado voters will have the opportunity to vote for Proposition 106, which would legalize the practice of medical aid in dying. I personally don’t know whether I would take the option to exercise medical aid in dying, and hope that my fight proves successful so that I’m never confronted with that decision. But, knowing that dying from brain cancer can be an agonizing and painful death, simply having the option would bring me a tremendous amount of peace and comfort now, while I continue my fight.
Medical aid in dying, also known as death with dignity, allows a terminally ill, mentally capable person with a life expectancy prognosis of six months or less to request, obtain and—if his or her suffering becomes unbearable—self-administer medication that shortens the dying process and brings about a peaceful death.
Medical aid in dying is not a replacement for palliative care and hospice. Rather, it compliments palliative care and hospice. There are certain terminal illnesses, of which brain cancer can be one in some cases, where palliative care and hospice cannot adequately manage the pain and agony and only shortening the dying process can alleviate the suffering.
Medical aid in dying is not euthanasia. Colorado Proposition 106 requires an individual to have a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less and other stringent qualifications, including the requirement that a person voluntarily requests and voluntarily self-administers the medication.
Medical aid in dying is not a “left” or “right” issue. Rather, it is an issue of compassion and freedom. I know members of both the “far left” and “far right,” and a lot of people in the middle, that support medical aid in dying.
Medical aid in dying is not about more government, it’s about less government. Currently, the government makes it illegal for doctors to offer medical aid in dying as an option. Colorado Proposition 106 would remove government from this personal issue, and instead let people decide for themselves what end of life options are best for them with their family, faith and doctors.
Medical aid in dying is not an affront to religion, it’s an embrace of religious freedom. Dying is one of the most, if not the most, spiritual events of one’s life. People of all faiths should be able to choose for themselves the circumstances under which they pass from this world.
Medical aid in dying is not assisted suicide. Suicide is for people who want to die. Brain cancer aside, I’ve had more blessings and good fortune than any one guy reasonably deserves in a lifetime. I have a wonderful life, and I desperately want to live. However, I don’t want to needlessly suffer if my battle with brain cancer proves unsuccessful and if palliative care and hospice are not able to adequately mitigate my suffering.
Proposition 106 is not flawed. The opposition won’t simply come out and say: “I want to impose my beliefs on others.” Rather, they will twist and distort aspects of Proposition 106 to claim that it is flawed.
Don’t be misled! Proposition 106 is modeled after the 1997 Oregon Death with Dignity Act, and includes all the same safeguards and protections. In Oregon’s nearly 20 year experience with medical aid in dying, there has been no single instance of proven abuse, misuse, exploitation or coercion. Furthermore, four other states also authorize medical aid in dying and have had the same successful experience including Washington, Vermont, Montana and California.
The stakes are high. If the opposition is successful in misleading the people of Colorado and Proposition 106 is defeated, the opportunity to give Coloradans the choice to limit their suffering is unlikely to come around again anytime soon. And for Coloradans facing a terminal illness now, this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Matt Larson is a Colorado native, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 35. Matt is a graduate of CU Boulder (Finance ’02, Law ’05).