Individual Choices and Judgment

The world of death and dying has been getting a lot of press lately. What comes with all this press are a lot of comments about which choices are right and which are wrong in other people’s death and dying situations. We live in a country where we all have the right to make individual choices. We have the freedom to make decisions about how we express our sexuality, whether or not we have families, what religion we choose to practice, whether to bear arms, and so much more. In addition to these individual choices, we have the right and freedom to be vocal about our beliefs. With all this freedom comes the responsibility to use our speech to express our beliefs carefully, so as to not trample on the individuals choices and decisions of others.

With a 24-hour media cycle and easy access to information and ideas via the internet, people are getting more and more information about others’ individual choices. Many people seem to be very comfortable sharing their dislike and disapproval for the decisions of others. Specifically, I am talking about choices related to death and dying.

Brittany Maynard made a great deal of news for her decision on how to end her life. There were those that applauded her decision, but many were critical. In a world where all of us want individual choices, don’t we have a responsibility to allow others the same freedom of choice even if we don’t agree with it?

If diagnosed with a terminal illness, shouldn’t you have the right to your individual choice, even in terms of how your life ends? Don’t you want the right to make your choices without the judgment of others, especially from those that do not or cannot truly understand your situation? We will all face our own mortality and some of us will have advanced warning about when we will die. At that time, wouldn’t it be wonderful and a loving gift if our friends, loved ones, and the rest of the world supported our decisions, knowing that the individual choice we have made is the right one for us, rather than condemn and denigrate us at this vulnerable time in our life?