- First, a quick distinction between euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS), in my own non-academic words:
Euthanasia is when a doctor or other health care professional actively and directly kills a patient, usually by a lethal dose. The killing may occur with or without the consent of the patient, and the patient may or may not be terminally ill.
Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) gives the doctor a more passive role, as he only prescribes the lethal dose but does not administer it. The patient has the pills in his possession and uses them to commit suicide (or not) at his own discretion.
- I want to make it clear from the outset: I don't know anything at all about the state of Brittany Maynard's eternal soul. No one can say where she is now, or what will be her eternal destiny. Only God can judge her soul. I can tell you that my heart breaks for her, for her family, and for the medical situation they faced. I am praying for her soul, and I trust in a merciful God. Having said that, we can certainly judge actions as right or wrong, and suicide (the murder of oneself) is always objectively a grave sin. The Catholic Church steadfastly opposes euthanasia, PAS, and suicide, because she stands for the dignity and inviolability of human life, always.
- This issue has been carefully presented as one of "compassion", and yet this should not be a competition about who who cares more vs. who is mean and heartless; after all, if we measure compassion simply by how much suffering can be avoided at any cost, then the most compassionate thing we could do would be to quickly and painlessly kill infants as they are born, no? Because no one gets out of this life without excruciating suffering of some type or another. Suffering is not meaningless, and it is in the mystery of great suffering that we are often most human, and closest to the Divine. Killing human beings is never, ever "compassion".
- This national debate that Brittany actively and intentionally brought to the fore is not about whether or not she would be able to choose death. People who have severe suffering (physical, mental, and/or emotional) kill themselves every day and no one can stop them. No one could have stopped Brittany from committing suicide, especially as she had the support of her family in doing so. Brittany's firmly stated cause was to push for policy changes in all states, for implementation of legal physician-assisted suicide. The result of such laws is a corruption of the practice of medicine, making our health care professionals complicit in killing human beings (similar to what happened with legal abortion), and it is not a road we want to go down as a society. If you are unconvinced, take a look at where the Netherlands and Belgium are with euthanasia now -- The Dutch are euthanizing the clinically depressed, and Belgium recently voted to euthanize children. It used to be axiomatic: Doctors should be healers, not killers.
- The news of Brittany's death was not released by her family, but by "Compassion and Choices" (formerly known as the Hemlock Society). That fact alone is bizarre, and it appears that she was used as a poster child for a political cause. She will continue to be used from here on in, and she will be used because she's young and beautiful. The many old and unattractive people who kill themselves, or whom doctors help to kill, do not make for good fundraising, advertising, or advocacy. They are not as useful and appealing when promoting death and suicide. For a day, it looked as if Brittany would let the November 1 suicide date pass by. She hinted in a video that she might want to live a little longer, that life was still good. Then, the next day, "Compassion and Choices" announces that she had "died with dignity". Some have wondered... was there great pressure to keep the date? To show how right was the cause? To make the much-anticipated and widely-cheered event go off as planned? I can't imagine the pressure. The euthanasia advocates finally had their perfect spokesperson ("She is the most natural spokesperson I have ever heard in my life.... she's teaching the world"), and they had the global spotlight. They needed everything to play out as promised. The worst thing that could happen for the "cause" would be a change of heart by Brittany. Anyone else have a weird feeling about this?
- Advocates for legalized PAS have repeatedly stated that no one knows the suffering Brittany endured because they don't have terminal brain cancer. And yet, there are those with advanced brain cancer who have responded. Maggie Karner, who has the very same brain cancer as Brittany, deserves a chance to be heard. In this short video, she speaks directly to Brittany, beautifully and lovingly, with a message of hope rather than fear or death:
- And others who have witnessed the very suffering that Brittany killed herself to avoid include my friend Lisa, who wrote to me:
My husband died from the same brain cancer and never gave up; he told me he wanted to fight to his last breath, and that is exactly what he did; THAT is heroism. To all those still fighting....you know who you are...don't let anyone steal your hope!! I have been beside myself as I watch the Culture of Death creep into our society. It's absolutely devastating. I imagine a day that doesn't seem so far off when people kill themselves because they had a bad day, all in the name of 'choice'.
It feels like a celebration of death! It makes me feel like everyone who is fighting, or who has fought for their lives are somehow less heroic than this misguided young lady. I have a good friend fighting brain cancer as I type and she posted on my wall about how bad she's feeling.* People like her need encouragement, not to be robbed of hope!
I keep looking at all the brain tumor warrior pages and wonder why they aren't lauded as being heroic. It really hurts. My husband didn't die in vain and will be more of a hero to me than anyone who is used as a pawn in a political issue. All this news coverage in the name of 'choice'...gah...it just. hurts.
*Here is the note from Lisa's friend fighting brain cancer: 'I'm glad you're speaking up. I don't think a lot of people realize how much they're hurting others when they call this woman a hero. I had one lady tell me that "[Brittany's] a hero for not making her family take care of her anymore" and it cut me so deeply- was I so selfish to make my family care for me after surgery? What if it'd gone badly? Should I have opted for death rather than inconvenience them?'
- Remember after Robin Williams' suicide? Everyone was so devastated, and it hurt so much more than if he had died in any other way. But why were we devastated? He was simply ending his excruciating suffering, wasn't he? One could even argue that he was in a greater state of suffering at his death than Brittany was at hers. "It's not the same," you say, "because Robin Williams was not dying!" And yet, the argument Brittany made for her suicide was not about the fact that she was dying, but that she was going to face great suffering ahead. It was the suffering that was to be avoided at all costs, even the cost of an early, planned death. So, how is that different from Williams? He was in agony, clearly. He saw greater suffering ahead. He felt there would be no help for his pain. He ended his agony. Why was he wrong and Brittany right? Help me understand.
- Here's where it gets intensely personal for me: I have two very close family members who are currently fighting advanced cancers. Neither cancer is medically curable. I will not launch into the amount of suffering that they have and will endure, but I can tell you that my loved ones have been fighting the scourge of cancer like heroes. There is no moral mandate that they keep fighting indefinitely (please understand that!), but they have fought their diseases with courage and dignity, and they will continue to do so. Life is precious, and it is not our own. There are millions around the nation fighting advanced cancer. When and if their cancer gets too advanced, and if they do die from it, they will have their dignity to their very last breaths. They will have died with dignity. To say that "Brittany Maynard died with dignity" by committing suicide, and to say that suicide is "courageous", implies that it is not dignified and not courageous to die otherwise. It is a slap in the face to my loved ones and to millions of others. Remember when we as a nation cheered Michael Landon as he refused to allow advanced pancreatic cancer to steal even one more day of his life that it had to? We were so moved, we were proud, we knew him to be a man of courage, a hero. Oh, how our culture has changed. "Death with dignity" is a euphemism for suicide, in the same way that "choice" is a euphemism for abortion. Suicide is not a good, and it is not in keeping with human dignity. For all those patients fighting the good fight, calling suicide "courageous" is a kick in the gut.
- And one last thing. Miracles, even on a massive scale, do still occur:
Okay, I'm ready to discuss if you are.