Should This Terminally Ill Teen Have The Choice To Die?


“I urgently request to speak to the president, because I’m tired of living with this illness. I want her approval so I can get a shot that will make me sleep forever.” That is the plea 14-year-old Valentina Maureira made in an effort to end her life.

Valentina Maureira is suffering from an incurable genetic disease, cystic fibrosis, it is the same disease that took her younger brother’s life when he was just six years old. She made her plea to the current President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet. While President Bachelet was moved by the girl’s video, and met with her and her family in the hospital, the reality is that in Chile euthanasia is illegal. Maureira may be young, but she has already had to watch her brother battle with the same disease and die. It is that reality, which has, in part, allowed her father to support his daughter’s decision.

“This is so tough,” her father, Fredy Maureira told The Associated Press“But I have to respect her decision because she’s the one who’s suffering this illness. I already lost a 6-year-old son because I didn’t have enough money and organs. Now my daughter just wants to die in a dignified way.”

Dying with dignity is a growing debate for people with terminal illnesses. Many suffering do not want to spend the rest of their remaining days in pain because of treatments that will likely not work. The documentary, How To Die In Oregon, explores the personal stories of people who have the option to receive physician-assisted suicide.

Currently, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium are the only three countries that have legal euthanasia. Others: Switzerland, Germany, Albania, Japan, and Colombia, allow assisted suicide and it is legal in a handful of U.S. states including New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, Vermont, and Montana. 

Earlier this year, a 17-year-old girl with cancer went to court to determine if she could refuse treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and was mandated by the court to be treated even if it was against her wishes. Brittany Maynard, took her own life after being diagnosed with brain cancer and was informed she had only six months left to live. She and her family chose to move to Oregon in order to access the death-with-dignity-law and was given a prescription that would end her life, which she did on November 1st 2014.

For women, the issue of legalized euthanasia is important. An article published by Jennifer A. Parks, cited a study done by Susan Wolf, which speaks of how culture has made women more likely to request euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Wolf’s argument states that “to avoid burdening their families—a perversion of the feminine ethic of care that takes women’s caring for and about others to the extreme” women are more inclined to seek out methods of suicide when facing severe mental illness.

For many doctors the concern is for the people diagnosed with non-terminal illnesses or those who might be suffering from depression. They may ask for this assisted suicide and are concerned that by legalizing physician-assisted suicide, people who are still able and may recover are seeking this form of death. As of 2013, 67% of American doctors oppose the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.

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