Research: assisted death laws a way for people to die with dignity

There are many of us who would like to see our lives end the way we lived them, with dignity and respect.

But when your death looks like it’s going to be painful or a slow slide into intellectual oblivion, it’s completely natural to think about your options.

Brittany Maynard

The slow adoption of dying-with-dignity laws across the country in recent years has resulted in new research exploring the stories and circumstances behind the statistics.

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine using research conducted by Canada’s University Health Network is one such example. That work pored through the applications of 74 people looking to use Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying law, or MAiD, from March 2016 to March 2017.

Expecting to find applicants suffering pain from various life-ending diseases, researchers were rather surprised at the findings.

Researcher Madeline Li  of the University of Toronto found many in what she termed “existential distress”.

“Their quality of life is not what they want. They are mostly educated and affluent — people who are used to being successful and in control of their lives, and it’s how they want their death to be.”

That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to Americans who read about the case of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard a few years ago. California resident Maynard went Oregon to gain access to their death-with-dignity law. She had an inoperable brain tumour and having seen the effects of the disease on family members she wanted  to avoid the same fate.

Her story which rippled across social media raised awareness of the issue which resulted in California joining the ranks of those with death-with-dignity laws.

Working with a wide variety of clients over the years, I’ve seen how tough it can be ensure end-of-life planning preserves as much dignity as possible. If a plan is not written down, decisions are left to family members who come in with agendas of their that are not always aligned with the wishes of the dying.

Getting your plan in place while you are healthy is the best way to preserve your dignity, and spare those you love from having to make decisions made in a time of crisis and emotional trauma.