In 2012, ALS patient Gloria Taylor was granted a “personal exemption” for assisted death by
a Vancouver judge. In To Gently Leave This Life: The Right To Die the author predicted that
Gloria’s case would lead to new international precedents and it has: On February 6th Canadas
Supreme Court reversed the ban on assisted death. For people who are suffering from a
terminal or incurable illness, the option of a peaceful passing is the issue at the forefront of
modern society. Assessing the quality of life, and allowing patients who suffer from debilitating
pain and dependence on others to gently leave this life, gives people a dignified alternative.
Read To Gently Leave This Life to understand the history of the Right-To-Die movement and
the difficult deaths of Karen Quinlan, Sue Rodriguez and others, that helped pave the way to
aid in dying legislation in five states, Quebec, four countries in Europe, and now Canada.
To Gently Leave This Life: The Right To Die – by Elaine Feuer
“His pain was too great. He begged me for the simple mercy of death. I could do nothing else but help him leave a world that had become a sleepless, tortured nightmare to him.” - Robert D. Andrews
The concept of a “good death” has been debated since the beginning of civilization. In the 21st century, longer lifespans and advances in medicine have resulted in new legislation regarding an individual’s “right to die.” The option to end one’s own life, when pain becomes intolerable or the quality of life is nonexistent, is an issue at the forefront of modern society. Who among us would trade places with a patient, dependent on machines and other people, for every aspect of their life? Who among us wouldn’t choose doctor-assisted death, if that option were available?
During the last two decades, the states* of Oregon, Washington, and Montana have passed Death With Dignity legislation, and in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, voluntary euthanasia laws were approved. However, in 2012, two court cases examining physician aid in dying could lead to new international precedents: Gloria Taylor, who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, became the first person in Canada to be granted the “right to die” via a “personal exemption” by British Columbia’s Supreme Court; in Britain, Tony Nicklinson, who suffered from “locked-in syndrome” and could only communicate by blinking, died from pneumonia after refusing food and fluids subsequent to a High Court decision that refused to grant him assisted death.
In this age of medical technology, of machines sustaining lives irrespective of quality of life and dignity, we often discount the concept of a “good death.” Allowing terminally ill people to pass on quickly and peacefully does not encroach on the civil liberties of others. Aid in dying legislation allows patients to operate within the medical system and ease their anxiety, while giving friends and family peace of mind. Assessing the quality of life, and allowing patients who suffer from debilitating pain and dependence on others to gently leave this life, gives people a dignified alternative.
In a democratic society, the right to choose, the option of free will, is tantamount for survival. In the United States, we value our freedom above all else. We value the right to self-determination and opposing viewpoints. We value life, and we are all mortal.
*On May 20th 2013, Vermont’s state legislature voted for aid in dying, and Governor Peter Shumlin signed the bill into law, making Vermont the fourth state to have Death With Dignity Laws. In January 2014, a district court in New Mexico authorized doctors to provide lethal prescriptions, declaring it a constitutional right for “a competent, terminally ill patient to choose aid in dying.”
Elaine Feuer became the CEO of Blue Danube Publishing in December 2014. Elaine began contemplating end-of-life issues after witnessing her mother’s slow and painful death from cancer. She is the author of To Gently Leave This Life: The Right To Die and Innocent Casualties: The FDA’s War Against Humanity. The Last Waltz: Love, Death & Betrayal, written by Sean Davison, edited by Elaine, and published by Blue Danube, is available for purchase in February.