Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Euthanasia, Physician-Assisted Suicide, and Brittany Maynard

So many thoughts, so much sadness over the last few days. Many in the nation encouraged Brittany Maynard as she approached her planned death by suicide, and many prayed for her to change her mind. I'm just going to throw out some basic points and ponderings, in no particular order, and then we can discuss any or all of it in the comments.

  • 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.


  1. And oh my gosh, BINGO:

    "What Brittany’s decision clearly reveals are two of the great sins of our time: the sin of being inconvenient to others, and the sin of not being in control."


  2. Abortion, euthanasia, physician assisted suicide… these are all of a piece, part of the culture of death incorporating eugenics/population control/management of healthcare costs and the throwing off of familial and social responsibilities in an increasingly selfish, materialistic and narcissistic world. Suffering, stoicism and sacrifice are out, heroically coping with hardship and disability are out, spending time and resources on the sick and weak are out in this “throwaway society” (as Pope Francis describes it); one unbroken chain of pleasurable existence and striving for utopia are in. It began with the quiet changes to the Hippocratic oath, which once precluded doctors from prescribing abortifacients to patients. This was engineered covertly to accommodate the sexual revolution, with its exponentially growing need for contraception and abortion. Thus was born, as so accurately prophesied by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, the “contraception mentality” which blossomed ultimately and inevitably into the full blown culture of death we are witnessing today.

    And just as contraception (for all the “noblest” of reasons) has led to the slaughter of millions, so too will this normalization of PAS lead, ultimately, to the murder of millions by enforced euthanasia. It is not hard at all for the thinking man to connect the dots.

    The "right to die" will inevitably become an expectation to die, then a duty to die, then euthanasia -- outright murder.

    Just look at the numbers from the State of Oregon, which has strict reporting requirements: the top reasons expressed for people wanting to kill themselves were:
    - loss of autonomy,
    - loss in ability to engage in activities making life enjoyable,
    - loss of dignity and
    - not wanting to be a burden on their family members.

    49% included this last reason! On the other hand, only 28% expressed inadequate pain control or a concern for it.

    In the past, 80% had cancer, now only 64% do, so doctors and individuals are finding more reasons to hasten death, which should be troubling to all of us.

    One other aspect of all this is the weakening of the national character in the bid, not to mitigate, but to entirely shrug off pain and suffering. Put another way, it is the growth of an entitlement mentality, which is a delusion that there can indeed be gain without pain. In spiritual terms: crowns without crosses. It is absolutely no co-incidence that the rise of America’s enemies, their ever bolder challenges to the West’s security and prosperity, are occurring exactly when Westerners, softened by decades of wealth and comforts have started to lose the hard edge of both their morality and their steel. I kid you not, the plotting heads at ISIS will be reveling at this growing Western notion of physician assisted suicide – why, they might even happily offer to lend us a hand or a knife.

  3. Francis, that last part! So true! We have collectively lost our steel. We have forgotten what it means to endure. I include myself here. We have been so comfortable for so long. At the least suffering, my instinct is to balk. We are not made of hearty stock anymore, and it's to our detriment, societally.

  4. Our Students for Life chapter had an interesting discussion about this whole thing last week. Definitely very sad all around, but I couldn't help but notice in her writings that she would say "I'm not suicidal, I'm not suicidal." She wanted desperately for her suicide to be called something else. But in the end, she made the choice to take her own life just like other suicide victims do.

    I think you're right on the money that no one could have stopped her from killing herself. But we could choose not to say "This is okay, it must have been the right decision for her." And that's what bothered her so much that she became the poster child for the "death with dignity" movement. The whole thing's insanely sad and I pray she's with God now, but I don't see how anything she did could have actually helped anyone, and I worry that if our society becomes more accepting of suicide we'll see more and more people give up their lives for less and less cause.

    A few weeks ago someone in my dorm committed suicide, so this all hit just a bit close to home. We need to be preventing suicide, not glorifying it.

  5. Chris, that is heartbreaking about the student in your dorm. I do agree with you about the desensitization and the idea that the desire for suicide (and the pressure to do it) will come more easily for less of a cause. It's so sad, but we are weak, and we will usually take the path that causes us less pain. Though when we do wrong in order to avoid the pain of doing things right, the pain actually increases exponentially, and to those around us as well as ourselves. Sin does not happen in a vacuum.

    And you've hit on something. When I read, "What We Can't Not Know", the thing that stuck out at me was that when people want to sin and sin big, they need to be around people who tell them it's okay, who support them, who do the same things in the same situations. It's human nature for the person to want to have an eased conscience. So, if suicide is taboo (or abortion, or anything), the person committing the act has to feel that the "group" has said it's all okay. It's why many women who have abortions (even if it devastates them), encourage friends to have abortions, too. I've witnessed it, and apparently it's not at all uncommon. "If we are all doing it, it can't be wrong."

  6. Sadly, I was one who was so deluded about pain and suffering, the "right to die", ect. When working in a hospital, I was helping take care of an elderly woman who needed her oxegyn in order to live. She was near the end of her life, but was still very lucid and able to think for herself. She kept telling us that she wanted to die, that she wanted her oxygen taken off. The doctor, nurses and her family would not let her and she wasn't happy about it. I was very confused about it. She seemed lucid to me; she knew what she wanted. She was at the end of her life and about to die. Didn't she have the right to die if that's what she wanted? So she was moved closer to the nurses station and were told to keep her door open so she could be watched. Later, her family visited. It was like a grand party in there, everyone was laughing and talking, and the patient was happy. When they left, I had to go in the room to take care of something for the patient. When leaving, the patient asked me to close the door. Honestly, I did not realize right away what she was going to do, but I remembered the nurses telling us to leave the door open. Well, I went against obedience and closed the door, honoring the patients wishes. The patient said, "thank you, thank you" sounding relieved, and at that moment, I knew what she was going to do.

    Sadly, I did not go back in or open the door or tell the nurse like I should have. And yes, the nurse found her dead about an hour later. She said, "Someone closed the door", sounding disgusted. She had no idea it was me. Later, her family came back to view the body, and whereas there was happiness and laughter only a few hours before, now there were only tears and sobs.

    So the patient got what she wanted, and did what she felt she had a right to do. I cooperated with it, not totally understanding how morally wrong it was. I have been to confession for this and have confessed it many times, because it is something I have to always live with for the rest of my life. I didn't know there was a name for it; I didn't know it was "assisted-suicide". I thought I was doing the right thing in honoring the patients requests.

    Brittnay's suicide announcement hit home for me. I don't know if I was thinking I could stop it--but I do know that I will never assist in suicide again. I will do everything I can to speak life and hope. I won't judge because I have done something worse than most. All I know is that I have a fire in my heart that can't be put out. I can't undo what I did but I have learned from it and hopefully teach others what you have to live with when you assist someone's death.

    1. I should probably add to clarify that I was "confused" because I didn't understand what suffering was; I didn't understand that it was necessary. I was instead confused because I was more "worldly" than I was "spiritual" and had been deluded into thinking that suffering is not necessary. And so--though I don't want to defend what I did--I was thinking that I was acting in mercy toward the patient. I also was not really in a good place in my faith at that time, and knew nothing about it.

      What I know now, I wish I knew then. But all I can do is use what I know now and apply it for those who are as confused as I was about what "mercy" is.

  7. As our priest has pointed out, "compassion" literally means "to suffer with". Truly having compassion is to be with the person in the midst of whatever they are going through, not just helping them end it.

  8. Becky, I'm no bioethicist, but I don't believe that what you did was in any way the assistance of a suicide. Remember, no one is required to prolong one's own life, if one is actively dying. If she died within the hour of taking off her oxygen, she was really on the verge of death at that point, wasn't she? She died of her disease, not of pills or gunshot or some other unnatural means of ending her life prematurely. But then again, I don't know the whole story of her history, or why she was on oxygen, her prognosis, etc. I do agree that you should have told someone or not shut the door. But that is not the same as being an accomplice to a suicide. So I hope you will put your mind at rest and be at peace.

  9. Catholic Mutt, yes! Compassion is to suffer with, and to alleviate suffering when we can, but not assist in murder or suicides to end suffering. There are moral lines that we may not cross. The idea that killing is compassionate is a lie. Killing is not loving.

  10. It's been FOREVER since I commented here (sorry/you're welcome!). I won't be coming back to discuss since I have exams coming up and just do not have time, but this is hard for me to pass up.

    I'll start with the stuff I know you guys will disagree with: I do support physician-assisted suicide. I believe that there should be dignity in death, and I believe that for some people, that may mean choosing to die on their own terms. From a simple patient care standpoint, I believe that someone who is suffering deeply – in a truly horrific amount of pain, with extremely low quality of life, with no hope of recovery – should be allowed to make the decision not to prolong that suffering unnecessarily.

    To be clear, suicide is a terrible thing. Robin Williams's suicide was so devastating because we all know it didn't need to happen. He could have been helped – there was no reason, besides his mental illness that told him otherwise, that he couldn't have gone on living. I don't believe that mental illness or transient physical illness or discomfort should be a situation in which one can choose assisted suicide.

    But in cases of extraordinary suffering, where death is the only possible conclusion, I truly cannot see the harm in allowing someone the option of sparing themselves and their family that suffering. (From what I've seen, I'm not sure this would have encompassed Brittany's situation yet.) I understand that the Catholic position on suffering provides meaning to situations like these, and I think that's wonderful, but for many people the suffering is simply not worthwhile.

    I understand that this is yet another case where I have chosen to see shades of gray where Catholics see black and white. As a future physician, I realize that I will one day be in a situation where I have to deal with end-of-life issues for a patient. I imagine it'll be pretty unlikely that I'll be in a state where PAS is an option, but my position on end of life care is the same regardless: I believe the physician should be honest with patients about the amount of suffering they can expect, and thoroughly discuss their options with them. Talk about continuing treatment. Talk about removing life support. Tell them what each of those things will look like for their quality of life. If PAS is an option, mention it. If the patient is interested, discuss it with them honestly, and address both the physical and psychological issues surrounding it while remaining neutral. And if the patient doesn't even want to consider it, then respect that and don't discuss it, even if you as the physician would choose it in that situation. I imagine a lot of the fear surrounding PAS is related to the worry that it will eventually be an encouraged, or worse a forced, option – I want to reassure you that I don't think that should ever be the case, and I think that legislation and physician training should be careful to ensure that we do not ever reach that point.

    I'll end with something we can probably agree on: we as a society need to be better about dealing with death and dying. We need to inject dignity into dying. I don't blame people whose minds, upon receiving a terrifying diagnosis, immediately jump to images of themselves dying miserably in the hospital, hooked up to machines and surrounded by strangers, and who decide that they want to cut things short before that happens. That sounds like a terrible way to go. We need to help people see death as a natural part of life, not a part of life to be feared or avoided at all costs. We need to actually turn it into a natural part of life again. Palliative and hospice care should be considered legitimate options, not a symbol of defeat. We need to help people accept that they will die eventually, and that they don't need to go kicking and screaming. I'd love to hear your guys's ideas on how we might accomplish all this (besides, of course, everyone converting to Catholicism ;) ).

    - Michelle

  11. Hi Michelle! Welcome back! You are right that we disagree on that first part. As the daughter, niece, and (someday) mother of physicians, it horrifies me, of course, that any doctor would suggest suicide as an option. Killing is not healing. I am not sure you fully addressed the troubling points in the post, and I don't see how we can both encourage and discourage suicide. I also don't know how suicide is a dignified death. I get that it puts the person in control, but is that what we consider dignity? To not be vulnerable, to never be helpless? As a Christian, I know that human beings never lose their dignity, but doing things that are so utterly against our nature (like killing ourselves) is not in keeping with our innate dignity.

    I understand that an atheist would be okay with suicide, especially for those suffering a terminal illness (although see my last point in the OP; doctors never really know when someone is going to die of cancer). If I were an atheist, I would be all for it. If we don't live on, and if we are just here and gone like any other animal, with no transcendent meaning, then what would it matter? It would be about the net reduction of suffering, I get it. Increase comfort and pleasure, reduce suffering. That's how I would totally approach my life as an atheist. Makes sense if we have no souls.

    I guess my question (and I know you can't answer because of your studies) is how are you so sure that we won't become a Netherlands or a Belgium? These are the secular "enlightened" societies that are a progressive's dream. I mean that without mocking. That really is who they look to.... the secular nations in Europe who are very "open-minded" about sex and sexuality, and about euthanasia and PAS. Why and how would we not end up like that? Why would the right to die not become the duty to die, especially as health care costs have to be contained?

  12. Oh poop. Tried to comment and it got eaten. I'm on my phone and need to sleep, so this will be super quick.

    Basically, I think PAS offers dignity in truly horrible situations where a painful, messy death is imminent and quality of life is essentially nonexistent. I can fully understand people feeling that the process of dying in such a way robs them of dignity. I don't believe, however, that they're

    Re: slippery slope. The healthcare system we have right now is laughably inefficient. We spend more than anywhere else in the world and have mediocre results. We literally can't figure out cost effectiveness to save our lives – we make it hard to access preventive care and easy to go to the ER and have the taxpayers pick up the bill, even though making preventive care easily accessible would save us money and lives. We let people undergo extraordinary measures to gain a few more weeks of life. I'm not sure how making PAS available would suddenly turn our system into one that's so obsessed with cost effectiveness that we force people to die.

    Also, any thoughts on my last question? It's a real issue in healthcare, and I think if we treated death differently, we'd have a lot fewer people pursuing PAS.

    1. Bumped send prematurely, sorry. Ignore that unfinished sentence, I was trying to get rid of it.

    2. Also, I can't tell you not to ask me questions, but I feel terrible not answering so... maybe don't if you can help it? :) Hopefully one day I'll have time to come back and really discuss things again but I just can't let myself get sucked in right now! (Particularly tempting with this being way more interesting than lung pathology...)

  13. Sadly, my little brother lost his 7 year battle with brain cancer in April 2013 at the age of 30. I know he suffered much through his battle. He received treatment at Duke in NC. Over the years I have met many courageous survivors through Duke's Angels Among Us fundraiser for brain cancer research. One in particular has had 2 children after her brain cancer went into remission! She has a glioblastoma which is the deadliest brain cancer. Her cancer has been in remission for 10 years! In the middle of my brother's cancer, my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer. The doctors in Atlanta said he would be gone in 6 months. He has battled bravely for 4 years and his cancer is in remission. Cancer is a horrid disease. My heart breaks for anyone battling this disease. Duke has a saying, "There is hope." As a family we cling to Hope, the everlasting life with Our Lord after the suffering of this life. 2 Christmas's before he died I shared the following Bible verse with my brother, "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial, for once he has passed the test, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12. God bless!

  14. Michelle, you said, . Robin Williams's suicide was so devastating because we all know it didn't need to happen. He could have been helped – there was no reason, besides his mental illness that told him otherwise, that he couldn't have gone on living. I don't believe that mental illness or transient physical illness or discomfort should be a situation in which one can choose assisted suicide.

    Here's what I don't understand about this. Robin Williams' widow said that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's, which is terminal and incurable. So how is what he did any different then what Brittany Maynard did (other than he didn't broadcast or politicize his intentions prior to killing himself, and he hung himself rather than ask a doctor for pills)?

  15. As for the slippery slope, it's already happened at least once in Oregon where a woman was told by her insurance company to opt for euthanasia instead of treatment because it was cheaper: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=5517492

    And here's a story from the Netherlands, in which a depressed woman was euthanized without having received any treatment for her mental illness: http://www.lifenews.com/2014/05/01/doctor-kills-depressed-woman-in-euthanasia-without-any-mental-health-treatment/

  16. Not to mention that former supporters of euthanasia in the Netherlands are now realizing the Pandora's Box that they've unleashed: http://www.lifenews.com/2014/07/15/dutch-professor-now-opposes-euthanasia-i-was-wrong-terribly-wrong/

  17. Sadly I currently have this discussion with my younger brother who is 30 and has Stage 3 anaplatic astrocytoma (a pretty aggressive brain cancer) regularly. He has fought for 2 yrs 3 months and 20ish days so far. His cancer is currently in remission and he has decided to no longer do his chemo treatments, which I understand and support. He has said once the drs tell him tje cancer is active again and if he "feels" his last months will be miserable then he "will use whatever means necessary so his family can witness a happy death." This I don't/ can't/ wont accept. I would support a DNR, no treatment, other legal paperwork so no one in the family can interfere and end of life can happen naturally due to the disease. I've tried and continue to try to help my brother realize death is nothing compared to the eternal life that awaits us. People are so afraid of the unknown and doctors are routinely wrong about when death will occur that to see people throw away what could be for what they think there is is just so sad. It truly breaks my heart. My brother is in pain every day despite remission and every week I have to prepare myself to possibly find him gone because he decided enough is enough....it's a struggle for all involved, not just the person who is ill and suffering physically, emotionally, mentally. I pray God will help us realize once again how precious each moment of our lives are, that suffering has a purpose, and that each moment we have makes a difference in this world. We are all precious in His sight. I will keep having the conversation about life, dignity, hope, justice and charity with those I love and pray for God to have mercy on all of us for the wrongs committed in this world. (Sorry for scatterbrain thoughts this morning, pregnancy brain has a hold of me today. 😌)

  18. ugagal, that is beautiful! Thank you for sharing that story. May God rest his soul!

    Gilliland Bunch, wow... that is so hard. I believe that the fear comes from not being in control. What I am learning as I get older and see more of the suffering of life (and more death) is that the idea of control is an illusion. We just have never really been in control. But we want to believe we are, and it's less frightening that way. But it's in abandonment that we find ourselves, and true peace. I will pray for your brother! How hard this much be on all the members of the family.

    JoAnna, thank you! I was thinking of those very same points for Michelle. And Michelle, as far as what we can all do.... I think hospice and good palliative care is the answer, for sure. And not making the sick and elderly feel like they are burdening the family or society. They are treasures!

  19. I've had cancer. I'm fine now thank God. Cancer treatment (chemo and radiation) is extremely brutal. The cancer is killing you but the treatment can kill you faster. Cancer pain is awful. The pain from treatment is awful. Seeing someone in that pain is NOT the same as enduring that pain yourself.

    Watching the pain my family and extended family went through while I was sick was almost as unbearable as the physical pain I had. My family could take care of me. Lots of people could help. Not everyone has that. We don't do enough for the caregivers. They are under extreme stress. Our country needs to work on that.

    I've told my family that if I die from the cancer I had, I don't want my obituary to say I "fought a battle" or that I "died peacefully". If I die before my kids are raised, there will be nothing peaceful about it. I can't explain why "fought a battle" bothers me so much. I bristle when I hear it though.

    I don't think that enduring suffering and pain makes someone "brave". Really, there isn't a lot of choice. If someone doesn't want to endure suffering and pain, that doesn't make them a wimp or cowardly.

    I do think that doctors should help you die easily. That doesn't mean I think they should participate in killing someone intentionally via suicide but I think more should be done for people that are actively dying. I don't know what "more" would mean.

    Miracles - I think it's unfair to tell someone with advancing cancer to hang on because there might be a miracle.

    I don't really have anything useful to say but I did want to make these points.

  20. Opps, one more point. We're all on borrowed time. There's no way out of dying. It's going to happen to all of us, despite miracles and medicine. I think we should be able to face death instead of grasping at straws to avoid it.

    There are have been many cases of people living much longer than expected when they quit treatment for their disease. I don't want these people viewed as wimps because they didn't go out "fighting" until their last breath. It's okay NOT to fight until the end.

    If my cancer comes back, I pray that I have the courage to stop treatment before the treatment stops me! I'd rather have a good 3 months instead of miserable 6 months because I'm too scared to stop treatment.

  21. LizaMoore, I couldn't agree more. I'm sorry if I offended by the term "battling" cancer. My brother played football. He and my dad equated cancer to a battle on the field. I'm sorry you have cancer. It is so difficult to witness a loved one suffer. I certainly wouldn't call anyone who has cancer a "wimp" for stopping his/her meds. I told my brother on many occasions it was ok to stop if he desired to do so. I've told my dad the same thing. As you said, "we're all on borrowed time". God bless you!

  22. The Gilliand Bunch, my brother had the same type of brain cancer. I was at his bedside holding his hand when he passed. He died with dignity. I know he never wanted to be in a wheelchair or be a "vegetable"(his word). God in His mercy, took him before any of that happened. It is never easy to sit on the sidelines and watch a loved one suffer. I try to imagine how Mary must have felt at the foot of the cross. Peace to you and your family.

  23. LizaMoore, I am happy to agree with you! I absolutely agree that people who don't want to "fight" to the bitter end do not have to do so. I completely support those who hit a certain point in their treatment and do not want to continue. God bless them, that is their choice. The only line I am drawing (or the Church is drawing) is active suicide. Either by a person's own hand, or by turning the medical professionals into accomplices to suicide. Other than that, there are many good and moral choices that can be made, and only the individual and his or her family can make that call.

    I am so glad you are better!

  24. On the day that Brittany Maynard killed herself, Lauryn Hill was embracing the rest of her life, fighting for every last day. She scored the first two points of the NCAA season. She also has brain cancer, was recruited to play college basketball at Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati. That was most likely the only time she will be strong enough to play a college game. That is inspiration! And Lauryn has vowed to spend the last six months of her life bringing awareness to her cancer to benefit children affected by her type of cancer.

  25. Cheryl, amen! That is inspirational! Suicide is not inspirational.

  26. It is very hard for me to speak calmly on this issue. I don't know if it is because I almost died of an illness or if it is something else. But suicide is nothing but a tragedy. It is often the result of depression or mental illness and a dark moment when no one else was there to pull the person back. I don't condemn those who commit suicide, I weep for them.

    But physician-assisted suicide is a cowardly act. It is reprehensible, on the part of both parties. You do not ask someone to validate and participate in your decision to end your life. You take responsibility for that act. And if someone asks you to help them die.....you get them help. You find them help. You may not succeed but you must at least _try_.

    I almost got kicked out of a law school class for debating on this issue. One of my classmates was trying hard to argue that we have a right to "die with dignity" and I told them that was outright false. We can only choose how we live, not how we die. We can pray for a good death but we don't get to choose. Only those who commit suicide get to choose and even then sometimes they do not die how they intend. You cannot have a right to something that does not occur naturally.

    My niece was suppose to die at 8, she just graduated high school. I should have died at 2 and I am in my 30s. A friend was told she would die of cancer and her baby would never survive because it was exposed to radiation. Both are healthy today. It is amazing how many of us live.

  27. Proud of you, Kat. Thank you for the witness. You are clearly blessed with sobriety, understanding and true compassion.

  28. Kat, thank you! And thank you for fighting in a law school class! That is no small act of bravery right there.

  29. A must read: http://dailysignal.com/2014/11/06/mom-brain-cancer-diagnosis-brittany-maynard-shes-fighting-live-long-can/

  30. I've been a long time reader but have never commented on your site before, but I feel compelled to comment on this. I coached a girl (eerily similar to Lauryn's story that was already mentioned) who died of brain cancer just shy of her 19th birthday. As the cancer progressed she would play basketball games with a patch on one eye and was deaf in one ear. It was nothing short of inspirational being able to witness this incredible bravery and courage to never give up despite the odds. In the end she was unrecognizable and so terribly weak, but I have never seen so much dignity in all my life.


  31. Elise, that brings tears to my eyes and gives me chills! Thank you for that. Absolutely, she lived and died with dignity, and for those who promote euthanasia to imply otherwise is just beyond the pale.

  32. I can't tell someone, "You MUST suffer," but I can sit by someone, with someone.
    If I knew someone had the means, the plan and the opportunity to kill him or herself I would call 911 immediately. In my world, that is the proper course of action. So is ensuring pain relief. I can't heap blame and judgement on this young woman. But where is the hope?

  33. Elise,

    The term "death with dignity" has two meanings. It can mean facing death bravely and showing dignity or it can mean being treated with dignity by being allowed to die on one's own terms. The person you described showed dignity. Brittany Maynard was given her dignity. They are both good.

    1. Bill, Leila has asked you several times not to comment on her blog. Please stop. You are crossing the line into stalking.

  34. JoAnna,

    That is very unbecoming and unchristian of you to accuse me of stalking. People like you give Catholics the reputation of being narrow-minded and intolerant of those who don't agree with everything they say and believe. You don't own the Internet.

    1. What would you call it, Bill, when somebody who has been repeatedly asked not to comment on the blog persists in commenting on it? To quote GK Chesterton, having the right to do a thing is not it all the same as being right in doing it.

  35. JoAnna,

    If I got on your site and you asked me to stay off it, that would be one thing. Or if I had addressed my comment to you instead of to Elise or if I said something insulting or inappropriate with which you took exception, I would expect hearing from you. I don't know. Maybe you are some kind of enforcer for Leila. That would be kind of weird.

    What I said was that the person who faces a long terminal illness and death with courage dies with dignity if that is their choice. Someone who chooses to die the way Brittany does also dies with dignity. It's important that people like you do not badmouth her without being told how wrong you are for doing that.

    1. Leila has been kind enough to grant me administrative privileges on her blog. I help her out with moderating comments, because she doesn't have the time to hang around dealing with stalkers who come to her blog to harass her.

      The content of your comments is irrelevant. You have been asked to not to comment and yet you persist in doing so. Your obsession with her blog is frankly quite creepy.

      If you continue commenting, those comments will be marked as spam and deleted.

  36. Bill,

    So Leila repeatedly asking you not to comment on her blog (this one that you are currently commenting on) means nothing to you? The rest of us just wish you would accept the request of the blog host.

    What's kind of weird is a grown man who doesn't comply with the wishes of a woman. Strange.

    Take care Bill. I'll continue to pray for you.

  37. Thank you, JoAnna and C. Yes, JoAnna is an incredible help to me on this blog, and she has free reign (because we are of like mind and I trust her totally). I am happy to speak with you privately via email (as we often do), but there have been too many requests (even from non-Catholics) that you please stop commenting here, as it is non-productive, a distraction, and oftentimes rude. Thanks for respecting my wishes.


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