Medical aid in dying is the ultimate religious freedom

Source: Star Tribune

Under current law, people who have made every life decision based on their personal values and faith suddenly become, due to a terminal illness, a victim of someone else’s theology.

My Uncle Don died in his mid-60s after a two-year struggle with cancer. He was one of my favorites, an adult with whom I could discuss topics I couldn’t even mention to my parents. As a kid I’d often ride my bike to his home in Richfield with assurance of getting some cookies, Rice Krispies bars or a similarly unhealthful snack.

So when in college I learned he had lung cancer, I was heartbroken. Like so many cancer patients, he “fought the good fight” — chemo, surgery, radiation. Despite all the treatments, the disease was winning.

One day, after returning from one of countless doctor appointments, he walked into his bedroom, pulled out a gun and shot himself. My aunt, hearing the shot from the kitchen, lived another 20 years with that horrendous memory.

My uncle accepted some comfort care but would not succumb to the cancer robbing him of his humanity. He wanted to die as he had lived, on his own terms. But at that time, medical aid in dying (MAID) wasn’t legal. I have no doubt that, after realizing the futility of further treatment, Uncle Don would have taken advantage of MAID, which enables a mentally competent adult suffering from a terminal illness to request from their physician medication that will end life peacefully. Medical aid in dying has been legal in Oregon for 20 years since that state’s’ passage of its Death with Dignity law and is now legal in seven more states, including California.

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