UMUC Student’s Essay on Physician-Assisted Suicide Earns Top Honors

Ladonna Ford, a senior at University of Maryland University College (UMUC), is the winner of the 2018 Mary E. Brown Undergraduate Student Paper Award. The award is sponsored by the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) and given for “an outstanding undergraduate paper dealing with a topic related to dying, death, loss and bereavement.”

“I am deeply honored to receive this prestigious award in recognition of my paper on a very heartfelt subject,” said Ford, who was inspired to write the essay after listening to former NPR talk show host Diane Rehm describe her husband’s  long-drawn-out and painful death from Parkinson’s Disease.

Ford also was motivated to write by Rehm’s book “On My Own,” which details her husband’s illness and suffering. “It is such an important subject that I truly believe needs to be resolved more humanely and uniformly by the legal system in this country,” she said.

Her essay, “Physician-assisted Suicide,” written in the summer of 2018 for the End of Life: Issues and Perspectives course taught by Donna Maurer, UMUC adjunct faculty member and sponsor of the Social Science and Gerontology Club, adeptly presents both sides of the highly-charged debate surrounding physician-assisted suicide. In it, she highlights the history of the “right to die” movement in the U.S. and outlines the political and ethical challenges of physician involvement, which includes a sensitive consideration of the sociocultural implications of physician-assisted suicide.

Maurer, a Doctor of Sociology, suggested that Ford submit her research paper for consideration. “I try to encourage students to enter essay contests,” she said.

“Sometimes our students don’t realize the high level of their own work and need a little extra encouragement. This is quite an honor, as ADEC is a highly regarded international professional and academic organization.”

Ford, who is majoring in business at UMUC, works for a small software development company in Maryland.

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