What MAiD Is, and What It Isn’t

Illness, dying and death can be troubling and fearful subjects. Not the kind of thing you bring up at brunch or over an after work beer. In a way that is too bad, these are things that happen to everyone, and by avoiding them, we give away much of our own power when we have to confront them.

Someone may find themselves at the mercy of perhaps well meaning, but not helpful, family members, caregivers or healthcare people. They may find their options and ability to decide what they want, and what they don’t, are chosen by others, and not necessarily the choices they would have made for themselves. There are lots of times in life when we don’t get to do as we wish; at the end of life, I would hope this is the one time when that person’s wishes are paramount.

The End of Life Option Act, a California law allowing medical aid in dying (MAiD) for the terminally ill under specific circumstances passed in 2016 (and subsequently updated very recently with some good changes), is a law that will allow you, under certain circumstances, to make the greatest choice of them all, that of how and when you will die. For all of us, death is inevitable, and most of the time, we don’t know when or how it will happen. For others, though, that fate is more clear and direct; a terminal diagnosis with a short time prospect. How to best experience that time is a direct benefit of MAiD.

MAiD is a gift

For someone facing an incurable cancer, an overwhelming neurological disease, relentless and increasing pain, yes, death will come, but only after extended suffering. For these folks, having lost so much thus far, having the right to choose when to die is a gift. With MAiD, this person, it could be you, one of your parents or relatives or even a close friend, can obtain medication that will painlessly end their life, when they wish and on their own terms. Not in a hospital, but at home, surrounded by the things and people that are important to them.

For anyone facing the uncertainty of death, having some say, control and dignity is a far better prospect than lying in bed, suffering and wondering when the end will come.

This gift is MAiD.

But isn’t that suicide?

Suicide is a charged concept, that of someone taking their own lives is sad and unnerving. MAiD is NOT suicide, it is not physician assisted suicide. MAiD is medical assistance in dying; it is the law that allows someone who is terminally ill with a 6 month or less prognosis to choose the day and time they will die, which is something that is going to happen for sure.

MAiD is not suicide, assisted suicide or euthanasia.


peaceful river scene
Having time for last goodbyes

MAiD is the managed time frame of an inevitable outcome; it is not any other intervention. Combining hospice and palliative care with MAiD allows someone the dignity and control they deserve. MAiD offers a sense of acceptance on personal terms that so many say they wish at the end of their lives.

There is the story of the man, terribly ill and in tremendous pain, his wife had passed previously and he was lonely and utterly miserable. His depression was profound and his family didn’t know which way to turn to help him. He was informed about the option of MAiD, which he had not known of. After learning about his qualifications and that this indeed was available to him, his family reported a total reversal of mood: he made his plans, relaxed into the time he had, and his last days were peaceful and calm.

To me, this is what MAiD really is: it is courage, choice and control. It is grace and peace and in fact true compassion.

I am very proud of these dedicated, caring volunteers from EOLCCA, who provide this deeply compassionate effort to those who want it. By addressing the huge question of how we live, and how we die, End of Life Choices California embodies the compassion each of us deserves at the most critical times.

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Cindy Lauren is EOLCCA’s new Executive Director. To reach her directly, please email clauren@endoflifechoicesca.org

EOLCCA supports a strong team of experienced volunteers throughout the state, ready to help anyone, anywhere in California free of charge with information and support regarding all end-of-life planning and choices, including aid in dying through the California End of Life Option Act. You can find comprehensive information on our user-friendly website. To support our work, or request an educational presentation, please visit ways to help.  Thank you.