Keep your eye on the death with dignity movement.
It will be an important issue for Baby Boomers as they age.
Baby Boomers are finally coming to terms with the fact that they won’t live forever. And how they cross over from this world to whatever lies on the other side is becoming more and more important to them. It’s a journey they want to make on their own terms, not terms necessarily dictated by someone else, such as a doctor or hospital or care facility.
In its broadest definition, death with dignity allows someone who is terminally ill to be allowed to die naturally and comfortably, rather than experience a comatose, vegetative life prolonged by mechanical support systems.
For the Death With Dignity National Center, the definition is a bit more narrow: “The greatest human freedom is to live, and die, according to one’s own desires and beliefs. From advance directives to physician-assisted dying, death with dignity is a movement to provide options for the dying to control their own end-of-life care.”
It was a 29-year-old – Brittany Maynard – who really brought this issue to public notice. She was diagnosed with brain cancer and she didn’t want to put herself – or her loved ones – through the agonizing last days of pain and seizures.
So she chose to end her life on her terms, with the help of so-called “aid-in-dying medication that she received from a doctor in Oregon, where she moved because Oregon is one of a handful of states that has a death-with-dignity statute. In the process, she became an advocate for people with terminal illnesses who want to die on their own terms.It is an issue fraught with argument and moral ethical dilemmas. Counter to the death with dignity arguments are the claims that it is no more than assisted suicide. It is God’s will to decide when someone dies, some argue, not someone’s personal whim.
But Baby Boomers are beginning to see death as a part of life: If you’ve led what you consider a good, fulfilling life, you should be entitled to have an equally good, fulfilling death.
There’s a certain selfishness in all this, to be certain. Baby Boomers, in thinking about end-of-life options, want what’s best for themselves. But they are also thinking they want what’s best for their children and grandchildren. They don’t want to burden themselves or others – financially and emotionally – with pain and suffering.
It is a philosophy they want for themselves and a philosophy they may want to entrust upon their own parents, now grappling with end-of-life decisions.
Five states have aid-in-dying laws: Washington, Oregon, Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico.
Another organization associated with the movement is Compassion & Choices. A state-by-state status map of what’s happening with death with dignity legislation across the country can be found on the group’s web site here.
Like other issues it faced in the past — racial equality, gender equality — death with dignity will require activism and involvement.