THE BLOG
10/20/2014 10:05 am ET Updated Dec 20, 2014

Death With Dignity Is a Matter of Personal Freedom

If you have visited a news oriented website recently, you have likely heard the story of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who has an inoperable brain tumor. Rather than let the tumor dictate the terms of her death, she proactively sought an option that would allow her to end her life in a dignified and humane fashion. Unfortunately, this meant uprooting her life and spending part of her limited time left on earth moving to Oregon where the Death with Dignity Act that residents passed in 1994 made receiving a physician's aid to achieve a civilized passing legal.

Her story and her efforts have brought a lot of attention to a very contentious but important debate. Given that 46 states consider physician involvement in when and how a person chooses to move on illegal, the position of those running for office this November on this topic make this election cycle a crucial tipping point in the fight over individual rights versus over reaching government regulations.

Recent court decisions regarding marriage equality suggest that antiquated, religious based moral platitudes are not protected by the Constitution. This means that those who argue against one's personal freedom under the guise of their parochial beliefs of what is right and wrong will quickly find themselves on the wrong side of history, if not the law. Just as the government has no right to force religious entities to act against their beliefs, the government also has no right to use one person's religious doctrine as justification for violating another person religious freedom.

If a religious book is the pretext for these laws, it should be noted that the Bible and other theological texts are full of archaic ideas that we readily ignore.

Given the precarious nature of such religious rationale the standard talking points used by those opposed to people exercising freedom of choice, suggests that the system is imperfect and some people who do not wish to die are being euthanized. While this is obviously a problem in need of a solution it is hardly a valid reason to deny countless others, who do want a dignified end of life, this option.

If every system needs to be infallible, perhaps we should end a capital punishment system where as many as 4 percent of death row inmates are innocent. We also may want to reconsider the Second Amendment, whose right to bear arms results in over 600 accidental deaths per year while also being responsible for 51 percent of suicides.

If unintended consequences are an issue, we should enact laws that prevent carbon dioxide emissions, since 700 to 800 people each year die from this pollution. We could also push for a universal health care system that would cover all Americans because our system of partial coverage leads to as many as 45,000 deaths per year.

Previously published in the Detroit News.