By Franchie Viaud, Staff Writer

29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who was diagnosed with brain cancer, ended her own life via assisted suicide on Saturday, a decision that has sparked debate over whether or not it should be legal.

29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who was diagnosed with brain cancer, ended her own life via assisted suicide on Saturday, a decision that has sparked debate over whether or not it should be legal./PHOTO VIA Flickr user Marko Javorac

On Saturday, Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman who had been diagnosed with brain cancer, ended her own life by means of assisted suicide.

She had been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an evasive and swiftly pervading malignancy that, according to the National Brain Tumor Society, is “the most deadly, most prevalent form.” Even after extensive chemotherapy, the tumor, on average, kills in 18 months. Its location on the brain stem makes it inoperable. The brain stem, responsible for regulating breathing and pulse, makes the area an exceedingly fragile working space. Any attempt to extract or dislodge the mass would have undoubtedly resulted in Maynard’s death. After being told that she had a mere six months to live, Maynard decided to take the matter into her own hands.

She had been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an evasive and swift-pervading malignancy that, according to the National Brain Tumor Society, is “the most deadly, most prevalent form.” Even after extensive chemotherapy, the tumor, on average, kills in 18 months. Its location on the brain stem makes it inoperable. The brain stem, responsible for regulating breathing and pulse, makes the area an exceedingly fragile working space. Any attempt to extract or dislodge the mass would have undoubtedly resulted in Maynard’s death. After being told that she had a mere six months to live, Maynard decided to take the matter into her own hands.

Maynard finally ended her suffering by taking a fatal dose of barbiturates, prescribed by her doctor. Maynard might not have had any say in her illness, but she did have control over her death.

Maynard died last weekend after choosing to move from California to Oregon, where the state has a Death with Dignity Act. The law states that “terminally-ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose.” Over the past few weeks, Maynard had been the face of right-to-die advocates all over the world. Naturally, her decision also sparked protests and anger nationwide, and some of the same questions that have plagued euthanization and the issue of abortion for years also arose.

Inquiries are circling around the delicate balance between mercy and murder. How is this any different than murder? It’s only called something different because it’s performed by a doctor. Other medical professionals have their own ethical reasons, one of which being the Hippocratic Oath they took, that they feel conflict with this act. Doctors are supposed to save lives; it’s contradictory to do otherwise.

Then there’s the whole idea of miracles and the slight chance, however improbable, that Maynard and others suffering from terminal illnesses, could have pulled through against all odds. As a realist, I find this argument meek at best. But it is a valid point, nevertheless. Yet it’s that chance, that merest flicker of hope, that keeps many people going. If terminally ill patients want to kill themselves, that is well within their rights, but should a doctor be requisitioned for the feat?

In 2012, Massachusetts voters had the option to vote for or against a ballot question asking about whether or not physicians could prescribe medicine to end life. The Massachusetts Medical Society publicly took a stand against assisted suicide. In addition, according to an online poll, 65 percent of New England Journal of Medicine readers (composed mainly of medical professionals) agreed and said they would also be opposed to similar laws.