Oklahoma senator joins battle over controversial ‘Death with Dignity Act’

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WASHINGTON – An Oklahoma lawmaker is fighting back against a bill that would give patients in Washington, D.C.the right to choose when it comes to a deadly disease.

‘The Death with Dignity Act of 2015’ allows patients with a terminal illness who have been given six months to live the right to ask their doctor for life-ending medication.

However, an Oklahoma congressman has introduced a resolution that would overturn that act.

On Monday, Sen. James Lankford spoke about physician-assisted suicide at The Heritage Foundation.

“I have a very dear family member that is precious to my family that was given a diagnosis of six months to live in 1981, and she is still kicking and is still a pretty amazing lady. This belief that somehow medicine can look over the shoulders of someone and tell someone exactly how long they live begs the reality of just everyday care for individuals and what happens. And quite frankly, those of us who are followers of God, just the belief that God can choose what to do in the life of every individual and the dignity of that person,” Lankford said.

In addition to religious beliefs, he says he also worries about the implications the act may have on low-income families facing a terminal diagnosis.

“It puts in front of a family and in front of an individual an unfathomable choice,” he said. “For a wealthy family, they wouldn’t hesitate. For families in poverty, they would understand the tremendous strain and would say, ‘This option’s cheaper and better for my family.”

It’s a controversial topic that has been in the spotlight for years.

In 2014, a 29-year-old California woman made national headlines when she announced that she would be ending her life after a terminal diagnosis.

Courtesy: Brittany Maynard

Courtesy: Brittany Maynard

Brittany Maynard had been married one year when she learned that she had an aggressive brain cancer. She says she researched her options and learned that the prescribed treatments wouldn’t cure her disease, but would put her through excruciating pain.

Since she was young, she learned that she would likely survive for a while but would lose verbal, cognitive and motor functions.

“I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms,” she said. “I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity. My question is:  Who has the right to tell me that I don’t deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?”

Maynard’s story inspired many to push for right-to-die legislation. However, Lankford says there are plenty of cases where a doctor’s diagnosis was wrong.

“I sit in this chair as a senator from Oklahoma because the former senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn, was given a very difficult diagnosis. By the way, he’s doing very well today and has recovered remarkably after a very, very difficult diagnosis,” he said.