Physician-assisted suicide just might be the next hot-button cultural issue—and Democrats and Republicans are deeply split on the question.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who previously helped lead the Catholic Church’s opposition to the Obamacare birth control mandate, helping the “war on women” moniker live on long after the 2012 election, recently announced a new political foe: physician-assisted suicide. Dolan’s crusade against aid-in-dying legislation in New York, and the battle over similar measures across the country, means Republican presidential contenders could soon find themselves between a rock and an even bigger rock in 2016.
In the first two months of 2015, 10 states have introduced bills that would make it legal for a physician to help a patient end his life. This number does not include legislative measures in other states pending since last year. Though the issue of assisted suicide has been in the public consciousness for at least two decades, the groundswell of new bills is due in large part to one person: Brittany Maynard.
Maynard was in the prime of her life when doctors told her she had six months to live due to glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. She relocated to Oregon, one of four states in which allowing a physician to provide a patient with a prescription to take her own life is legal, which Maynard did in November of last year. Maynard, who was not yet 30 when she died, was not only young; she was also attractive, telegenic, middle class and white. All of these qualities made her an extremely appealing and effective spokesperson for what can be a difficult cause to sell: the right to death. And since her death, the cause has gained momentum at record pace.
“There are no words to express the impact Brittany Maynard has made on this issue,” Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices, a leading advocacy group for end-of-life freedom that coordinated with Maynard on an awareness campaign, told The Daily Beast. “I think of her as prophetic in her impact.” Before Maynard, when most people heard the words “assisted suicide” they thought of Dr. Jack Kevorkian—menacingly nicknamed “Dr. Death” in media for his role in helping terminally ill patients end their lives, actions that ultimately landed him in prison. But unlike Kevorkian, who could come across as an unsympathetic zealot at best and a killer with a God complex at worst, Maynard’s story elicited nothing but sympathy.
A year before Maynard’s death, support for physician-assisted suicide was declining. But a Harris poll found that 72 percent of Americans supported assisted suicide following her death, compared to 67 percent in the last poll conducted by Harris on the subject. Additionally, the number of Americans supporting a person’s right to die increased from 70 percent to 74 percent.
Source: The Daily Beast | Keli Goff