Britney Maynard, an Oregon woman who was suffering from a terminal brain tumor, took her own life in early November after leading a very public campaign to promote the acceptance of “right to die” laws. An Oregon resident, Britney took advantage of Oregon’s “Death with Dignity Act,” one of the few such laws that exist in the nation. Her death, and the struggle she went through before taking her own life, has prompted many people to consider some rarely talked about issues about life, death, and the final decisions we might all one day have to face.
Maynard was diagnosed with a stage four malignant brain tumor early in 2014. Understanding that her tumor was inoperable and would lead to her death, Maynard decided to move from her home state of California to the state of Oregon. Unlike California, Oregon had a right to die law that would allow a physician to prescribe Maynard a lethal dose of medication. Maynard had decided this was how she wanted to end her life, so she made the move from a state that didn’t have a right to die law, to one that did.
Only four states have such laws. Oregon, Vermont, and Washington have specifically adopted legislation that allows for physician-assisted suicide. One other state, Montana, effectively allows for the same because a court order has overturned a law that would have prevented such acts.
In a majority of other states there are either specific state laws that prohibit physician-assisted suicide, or court cases that have upheld common law principles doing the same. In a small number of states, the legality of physician-assisted suicide is unclear.
Maynard’s Suicide and Your Choices
Even though the state of Colorado is not one of those states that has a physician-assisted suicide law, that doesn’t mean that Maynard’s death is something you should ignore. Though it’s rarely talked about, all of us understand that we will one day have to face our own death, as well as the death of close loved ones and family members. When that time comes, will your family know what you want? Will you know what those close to you will want?
If you have not taken the time to create an incapacity or estate plan, the answer to these questions will not be clear. By creating legal tools such as powers of attorney, advance medical directives, and other documents, you can be sure that your wishes will be protected when the time comes. Further, should family members fall ill and have these documents in place, you can rest assured that you will be doing what they would have wanted you to do when making decisions on their behalf.
Five Wishes Booklet
Five Wishes is a booklet we give our client the choice to use along with their trust. You have the option in a five wishes booklet to let your family and doctors know:
- Who you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them
- The kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want
- How comfortable you want to be
- How you want people to treat you
- What you want your loved ones to know
This booklet is invaluable to many for obvious reason. Be sure to contact our office to learn more about the Five Wishes Booklet!