Letter to the Editor: Death with dignity is a right all should be afforded

A more dignified way to face terminal illnesses

Sabryna Nelson is a Business Law major at ASU.

Last year, an estimated 1.7 million people were diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. Of those, an estimated 600,000 patients lost their fight to this second most common cause of death in the U.S.

These astonishing rates contribute to the fact that most Americans know someone who’s been affected by the disease, meaning someone you see throughout your day, or even your colleagues at ASU, may be battling cancer.

Legal in only five states, aid-in-dying statutes allow terminally-ill adult patients with less than six months to live to choose to die in a more dignified manner through the use of prescription medication. This process helps to relieve the physical and emotional pain and fatigue caused by terminal illnesses, allowing for patients to leave their loved ones the way they want to be remembered — a competent and dignified passing.

The in-depth process assures that only adults with less than six months to live are given the option to receive life-ending medication. Multiple stages, including approval from multiple physicians, witnesses, many other formalities, numerous written forms and a personal request from the terminal patient help to ensure that the patient’s true wishes are being fulfilled. 

These steps in the process aim to remove the risk of patients being coerced into the process by family members or other loved ones. Once the process is completed, the patients will receive life-ending medication that can be taken in the comfort of the place that will fulfill their final wishes.

The cost of treating a terminal illness is continually on the rise. In 2015 it cost over $100,000 for a year of chemotherapy treatment, and surgeries due to cancer begin at about $15,000 and escalate quickly. Although Medicare can alleviate some of the cost, a large sum still ends up being the patient's and his or her family’s responsibility. 

In comparing the two options, the medication administered to the patients can range from a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars depending on what medication the doctor chooses based on patient’s needs; however, when compared to the price of traditional treatment, the cost is still less. Though not as important as the comfort and happiness of the patient, some argue that this process also helps the country and individuals save on the cost of end-of-life care.

In contemplating the policy of Dignified Death, we must understand the process from the patient’s point of view. Although this option may not be for every terminally-ill patient, or even considered by every terminally-ill patient, it is important that the option be available. 

By letting individuals make the decision on how to face terminal illness, we give suffering individuals the option to choose to die in a dignified, competent manner. Because of this, it is necessary for the entire nation to enact aid-in-dying statutes. 

Reach Sabryna Nelson at slnels13@asu.edu or @sabrynanelson.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this letter to the editor are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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