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Physician-assisted death is a necessary right

Brittany Maynard, who became the face of the right-to-die movement following her diagnosis with a stage 4 malignant brain tumor, died on Saturday by assisted death. 

Maynard moved from California to Oregon following her diagnosis to pass away on her own terms in one of only five states that allows assisted suicide, or death by choice in which the patient chooses the time of death and is assisted by a physician. 

People who have terminal illnesses face a great deal of pain and a long process of accepting death. It’s difficult enough to be given an expiration date and be forced to live with it, but to suffer and have no a choice about it is inhumane. 

Currently, Florida does not authorize physician-assisted suicide and in such occurrences, the physician would be guilty of manslaughter.

Charles Hall, a Florida man who contracted HIV/AIDS from a blood transfusion during surgery, fought the Florida Supreme Court in 1996 for his right to an assisted death after being bedridden due to complications from the disease.

Hall was denied the right to such a death and eventually died from natural causes after suffering from what he said was indescribable pain, and was in the care of hospice, where terminally ill patients are cared for from the time of diagnosis until death. 

While hospice provides dignified care for its patients, there is only so much it can do for patients in pain to keep them comfortable until death. 

Because of Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, 71 people were able to choose a dignified death in 2013. Of these, 68.4 percent had cancer, 53.5 percent held at least a bachelor’s degree and 90 percent were ages 65 or older, according to a state health report.

Boo Archer Cole, a wellness coach in Alabama who works with terminally ill patients, claims that patients “have to feel it to heal it,” and Maynard couldn’t see past her pain, so she took medication to die that gave her a “sense of power.”

Maynard was only one terminally ill patient who suffered from pain and she was fortunate to have the choice to end her suffering. It was not a sense of power Maynard was looking for. She sought dignity in death rather than the humility of dying feeble and frail in a hospital bed.

Floridians who are faced with a terminal illness have a right to end their pain and suffering when they feel it’s necessary and to die a dignified death before physical debilitation takes over. The Florida Supreme Court has no right to put unwilling patients through that kind of pain.