Legalizing assisted suicide in Wisconsin

Reflecting on the controversial topic, we should follow suit in what numerous states and countries across the globe exemplify

More stories from Nicole Bellford


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Although many states across the United States have recently legalized assisted suicide, there are still plenty of states, like Wisconsin, fighting for the cause.

Walking down the dreary hospital halls, you prepare yourself to walk into your grandmother’s room. Although she was once a vivacious, witty woman filled with contagious energy and the best cookie recipe in town, she is not the same woman anymore. Not since the doctors broke the news of the stage four pancreatic cancer invading her body.

As you walk through the door, there lies her near-lifeless frame. This woman, who taught you how to ride a bike and watched your favorite movies with you over and over again, no matter how many times she has already seen them, can’t even lift a hand to say hello anymore. With IVs pumping all kinds of drugs through her system, it’s hard to tell if she even recognizes you are here with her.

It breaks you in half. She doesn’t deserve this. It isn’t the way she would have wanted her life to end. She’s already gone.

Such a situation occurs daily within the lives of terminally ill patients and their families across the world. That being said, it is no shock assisted suicide has become a rising topic of both interest and concern in the political realm.

According to a recent article in The Star Tribune, a proposal to legalize assisted suicide in the case of terminal illness has been raised in Wisconsin. The article said in past weeks, three democratic lawmakers in the state legislature crafted a bill “to allow someone suffering from a terminal illness to end their life if they have gotten approval from a doctor and meet other requirements.”

According to The Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization (ERGO), a handful of countries around the globe have already legalized assisted suicide in the case of terminal illness throughout the past two decades, including England, Canada, The Netherlands, Colombia, Belgium and Switzerland.

In the case of the United States, recent years have resulted in more states taking the initiative to legalize it as well, including Oregon, Montana, Vermont, New Mexico, Washington and California, according to ERGO.

Legalizing assisted suicide in all its controversy became a spotlight for media attention as Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman who chose to take her life with this method after a terminal brain cancer diagnosis decided to share her story with the public.

A couple months before Maynard partook in legally assisted suicide alongside loved ones in November 2014, she published her perspective, titled “My right to death with dignity,” on CNN.

In the article, Maynard described the initial grief and fear she experienced when she was first diagnosed with brain cancer and how her first couple months consisted of countless hospital visits and treatments.

Maynard said regardless of the doctors’ efforts and four months of treatment, her cancer had only become more aggressive. She said the doctor explained the only solution left was full brain radiation, a procedure with painful, long-lasting side effects including first-degree burns on her scalp.

“My quality of life, as I knew it, would be gone,” Maynard said. “There is no treatment that would save my life, and the recommended treatments would have destroyed the time I had left.”

With this conclusion, Maynard said she and her family moved to Oregon to spend her last couple months in peace rather than in a hospital bed, full of fear, uncertainty and pain. She spent her last couple months and weeks with her husband, traveling the state and enjoying the outdoors.

“I am not suicidal,” Maynard said. “I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.”

I remember reading Maynard’s story when it first came out, and my opinion on the topic has not changed since. The thought of assisted suicide is undoubtedly grim and depressing. No one wants to think of their loved ones feeling compelled to take their own life, regardless of terminal illness diagnosis.

However, this doesn’t make it wrong.

It is hard to picture unless it happens to you. Listening to Maynard’s experience and reflecting on any family or friends I have seen suffer through terminal illness to the bitter end, I find assisted suicide to be a realistic, understandable option that should be a given right.

People have a right to live their lives to the fullest and to be happy. When a diagnosis is terminal and there is extremely limited hope of survival, even when treatment is brutal, I don’t see why someone shouldn’t be able to do what Maynard did.

I know if I was in that position, I would want to pass in the comfort of my own home, spending my final moments completely coherent. I would want to suck in every possible ounce of life I had left to live. From hearing my friends laugh, to being able to say “I love you,” there are things I want my last moments to consist of that simply are not possible when treatments and medications are thrown into the mix.

I am not saying all terminally ill patients should decide to partake in assisted suicide. To each their own. However, I firmly believe it should always be an option for people in those kinds of situations, regardless of where they live. People should never feel as if they have zero control over their own lives.

Maynard’s closing words in her CNN article expressed hope that legalized assisted suicide will someday become a reality in all 50 states.

“I hope for the sake of my fellow Americans that I’ll never meet that this option is available to you,” Maynard said. “I can’t imagine trying to rob anyone else of that choice.”