In a recent interview for Dead and Buried, Dr. Sandeen provided insight into how choosing medical aid in dying can provide a sense of dignity and autonomy.

For veteran members of the Death with Dignity movement, long-immersed in the fight for expanded end-of-life options, the increased positivity and accuracy with which society talks about physician-assisted death can feel long overdue. 

However, for some of the general public, misconceptions remain, so it’s crucial to continue having conversations that dispel these still-too-common myths. Death with Dignity CEO Dr. Peg Sandeen does just that in the PBS Voices’ Dead and Buried episode “What Is The Right To Die and Why Does It Matter?,” speaking to host Curly Velasquez about why people choose medical aid in dying.

Aid in dying is neither suicide nor euthanasia

Within the piece, Velasquez recalls the tendency in 1990s media to conflate the right to die with assisted suicide and euthanasia – a trend that, albeit less prevalent today, persists. The host reminds us that “The act of a physician ending a patient’s life with lethal injection isn’t legal anywhere in the U.S.,” and that assisted-death requirements include the dying person retaining the ability to self-administer life-ending medication in all ten aid-in-dying states, along with Washington D.C.

Peace of mind is paramount for assisted-dying patients

Dr. Sandeen – a pivotal player in the movement for three decades – describes how for folks who are diagnosed with a terminal illness, their lives can feel “smaller and smaller” as their conditions worsen. For them, she says, some consolation can be found in the “peace of mind,” that comes with the “opportunity to take control” that medical aid in dying offers.

Medical aid in dying has more national support than ever

Moreover, despite its still-nascent expansion across the country, the right to die continues to poll considerably well, showing broad popularity: “According to a 2020 Gallup poll, 74% of U.S. adults believe that physicians should be able to help terminally ill patients die,” Velasquez said. 

Thanks to the sustained efforts of the aid-in-dying movement, the discourse surrounding assisted death has become more accurate – and mainstream – than ever. However, there is still more work to do, and Death with Dignity’s commitment to the fight for expanded end-of-life options remains resolute as we approach the next 30 years.

Watch the full video below:

What Is The Right To Die And Why Does It Matter?

PBS Voices
Published: 12/8/2023