STORY BY LAURA VOLLMER
Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide caught recent media attention through Brittany Maynard’s publicized death.
Maynard, 29, was diagnosed last year with a Stage IV glioblastoma multiforme, terminal brain cancer, and the prognosis of six months to live.
She decided to move from California to Oregon to have the legal opportunity of physician-assisted suicide.
Maynard ended her life on Nov. 1, using medication under Oregon’s “Death for Dignity Act.”
Maynard’s YouTube video, posted on Oct. 6, has received more than 9.5 million page views to date.
In the video, she explained her diagnosis and how she planned to die.
“I plan to be surrounded by my immediate family and will die upstairs in my bedroom … and pass peacefully with some music I like in the background,” she stated in the video.
There are currently only five states that have legalized such acts: Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana and New Mexico.
Iowa does not allow euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.
Euthanasia is defined as the action of inducing a gentle and easy death.
Physician-assisted suicide is knowingly helping or inciting a person to kill him or herself.
Drake University third-year law student Emily Cohen commented on the legalities of physician-assisted suicide in Iowa.
“Iowa has specifically criminalized euthanasia of humans and assisted suicide. Iowa’s law can hold physicians and nurses accountable for aiding someone in committing suicide or euthanasia,” Cohen said. “However, Iowa does allow palliative care, meaning that if a healthcare professional performs a procedure or gives medications that may hasten death in order to keep the patient comfortable, it is not a criminal assisted suicide. We also don’t consider withholding a life-sustaining procedure (under certain restrictions) illegal. If someone is convicted of assisted suicide they are charged with a class C felony.”
Overall, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is controversial.
There are many different viewpoints surrounding the current situation involving Maynard.
The National Right to Life states cases like Maynard’s are “the opening wedge after which, once the (principle) is established, the ‘right’ to be ‘assisted’ expands to a whole panoply of reasons, none of which are about terminal illnesses.”
Des Moines University medical student Tanner Davis commented on the ethics of the situation.
“I believe that Brittany Maynard’s situation was ethically the right thing to do. It would be unethical to keep her on machines and have uncontrollable pain,” Davis said.
There are several resources available for students to learn more about euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
Human Life Alliance, LifeNews.com, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, The Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics (NRL–National Right to Life) and the Scholl Institute of Bioethics are some sources Iowa Right of Life president Mary Merritt suggests for more information about physician assisted suicide.