Dying with Dignity

“Life is precious and so is liberty.”
~ Kenneth Goodman, Bioethics professor

Do your students want to talk about real-life stories? Are you interested in using authentic materials in the classroom? This story about a young American woman who was terminally ill with brain cancer will get your students talking about an issue that is in the news right now: Dying with Dignity. Because after taking time to read the different reviews of life insurance, sorting ownership of house/ pets, and planning a funeral, most terminally ill people don’t want to deteriorate with pain and discomfort but rather prevent that misery and die with dignity. Show the CNN video and read the article. Then review some vocabulary and have a discussion about this woman’s choices.


  • debilitating
  • take something into one’s own hands
  • post-op
  • immediate family
  • seize the day
  • plan for one’s demise
  • a slippery slope
  • terminally ill
  • malady
  • TMI (too much information)
  • bucket list

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think these pills should be legal everywhere, or should people be offered an alternative (such as the gmo cookie strain online stores have, to name one example) to relieve their pain in these situations?
  2. What does Britanny mean by “seize the day”?
  3. Do you think the terminally ill have the right to die in your native country in the near future?
  4. If our family pets are allowed to die with dignity, does that mean a human family member should be allowed to as well? Or should we use cbd oil for dogs with cancer to keep them as comfortable and pain-free as possible like we do with humans?
  5. What is on your bucket list?
  6. What do you think is most important when coming to the end of your life? Is it spending money on completing these bucket list tasks? is it investing in a life insurance policy like banner life to ensure your loved ones receive a beneficiary when you’re gone? Is it to raise money for your hospice or a charity for your illness? Or perhaps, is it to raise awareness for terminally ill people and legalising forms of euthanasia in their country?

Your students may also be interested in Sue Griffiths’ story.

Update: Brittany Maynard ended her own life on Saturday, November 2, at her home in Portland, Oregon. She left this heartfelt goodbye message on Facebook: “Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more. The world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers. I even have a ring of support around my bed as I type … Goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!”


Right To Die ESL Lesson PlanIn our Lesson Plan Library, you will find a Mini-Debates lesson plan about The Right To Die, which includes useful expressions for debating and sharing opinions. We also have a Famous People lesson plan on Dr. Kevorkian, a famous physician who helped many terminally ill people take their own lives. Also, in the video, Brittany’s mom says that she will be meeting her daughter at Machu Picchu. If your students want to learn more about this place, we have a lesson plan in our Famous Places section.

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