Fighting for the Right to Die: It shouldn't be a crime for those who are too sick to live to decide how and when to end their suffering.

AuthorWilder, Shelby

Maia Calloway welcomes me into her home in Taos, New Mexico. It's a warm and calming space surrounded by high desert. Calloway was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at age thirty-three. In the nine years since then, she has experienced a steep decline, suffering from paralysis throughout parts of her body, debilitating episodes of pain, and cognitive and physical impairment. She needs full-time care.

Despite these challenges, Calloway has "stuck around" to speak out about one's right to die and to educate people on the law in the United States. She believes that there is no better proponent for this case because, like many in her situation, she wants to end her own life.

Throughout her journey with MS, Calloway has desperately desired to leave her body, something that has robbed her of so much in recent years. "I would love to live," she says. "But I can't, because my level of disability is not acceptable for me; it's not being true to myself. I have really lost a lot of who I was."

Medical aid in dying, or MAID, which is legal in only a handful of states, allows doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients with less than six months to live. But even for those who try to legally end their life, like Calloway, many obstacles remain. The existing legislation specifically excludes people with degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, ALS/MND, and MS from qualifying for MAID.

While the campaign for MAID gains momentum across the country, it continues to work against some of the people who need it most. "The biggest part of my activism has been the realization that the right to die is as important as the right to live; that it's a human rights issue," Calloway says. "It's a civil rights issue. It's not a medical or moral issue."

Calloway has tirelessly advocated for MAID, alongside various end-of-life advocacy groups, asking lawmakers to consider adding more compassionate expansions to existing legislation.

"We just need to look at countries that have experience with euthanasia," she says. "We can look to models in Europe or Canada and see the success that they are having. Individuals should be assessed on a case-by-case basis." Euthanasia is currently legal in seven countries: Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Spain.

In April 2021, New Mexico legalized MAID by passing House Bill 47, but it unfortunately does not pertain to Calloway's case. Even though her medical...

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