Brittany Maynard: Suicidal or taking her power back?
- Stacy Kaiser is a family psychotherapist and grieving expert
- She explores both sides of the ‘Death with Dignity’ laws
Editor’s Note: Stacy Kaiser is a licensed marriage and family psychotherapist and grieving expert. She is the author of “How to be a Grown Up: The 10 Secret Skills Everyone Needs to Know.” She is on Twitter and Facebook.
Brittany Maynard has made a decision. Instead of allowing brain cancer to take her life, she has decided to take her own through the Death With Dignity Act, which is legal in the state of Oregon, where she is now living.
Brittany’s decision is controversial. Some would call her an empowered woman who’s taking her body and life into her own hands. Others have called her suicidal.
Why this woman wants to die with dignity
She states in her own words that she is not suicidal and that she is simply trying to die on her own terms. Despite her statement of intent, there are still people arguing both sides of this situation.
Maynard’s supporters might say:
- We allow this for our pets, so why not allow the same dignity for humans?
- She is a brave, courageous woman.
- She’s given herself a chance to live a quality life while she still can.
- She was thoughtful in that she included her husband and family in her decision.
- She’s a role model who is advocating for others who are terminally ill.
Those who are against her might say:
- She’s too depressed to know what’s right for her.
- She’s selfish because she’s depriving her family and friends of potential time with her.
- She’s going against the course of nature in that she’s preventing herself from living the length of life that she is supposed to have.
In my experience as a psychotherapist working with the terminally ill, I can tell you that it’s a very powerless feeling to know that an illness such as cancer has taken over your body and there’s nothing effective or seemingly acceptable that you can do to stop it. This type of experience brings on not only physical pain, but psychological and emotional suffering as well.
Individuals in such situations often feel hopeless, helpless, angry, sad, depressed, anxious, afraid and more. When I see and hear the messages that Maynard is putting out into the media, I see and hear a woman who feels as if she’s taken some power back. She is content. She is at peace. As a therapist, those are the feelings we want people to feel.
The right to die: Should we all have it?
Creating a legacy, no matter how big or small — whether leaving behind a living trust, creating an online memorial via a resource such as HealGrief.org, or being an advocate for a cause close to one’s heart — allows those who are ill and their families to more peacefully come to terms with their fate.
Maynard is a brave example of exactly that, and has left a powerful legacy while raising awareness about how people in her shoes can take their power back.