It’s been a month or so since Brittany Maynard, the 29 year old with terminal cancer ended her life via assisted suicide. There have been plenty of debates and discussion about the moral issues surrounding her decision, but few have considered the impact in the world of social media. By announcing her plans online, she opened the issue up to a much younger audience, and in doing so, changed the cultural conversation.
Abraham Schwab, a medical ethicist at Indiana University told USA Today that “She’s changed the debate by changing the audience of that debate.” Maynard was diagnosed with a Stage 4 malignant brain tumor in April, so she moved to Oregon with her family where it’s legal to commit suicide.
By putting the issue out there, and documenting her journey via social media, she dramatically lowered the age of people who normally discuss the subject.
It will be curious to see the outcome and impact of that development on the choices of the next generation. But to be sure – never underestimate the power or influence of social media…