"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Right To Die

You've probably heard or read about Brittany Maynard, the young woman diagnosed with terminal brain cancer who chose to commit suicide rather than go through the process of dying "naturally." Fortunately for her, she happened to live in Oregon, where you can do that. From Crooks and Liars:

Brittany Maynard died peacefully surrounded by her family and friends after she took a lethal dose of barbiturates prescribed by a doctor under Oregon's right-to-die law.

She didn't suffer, nor did she lose her faculties and subject her family to the dreadful decline brain cancer causes as it consumes more and more space in her skull. Most importantly, she made her choice out of compassion for her family.

It turns out that the particular form of brain cancer she has can be treated, but not cured -- and it seems the treatment only prolongs the agony.

There's a video at the C&L post with Lawrence O'Donnell's segment on the story.

The post at C&L also linked to this article by Joni Eareckson, which, given the source, is rather unsurprisingly critical of Ms. Maynard's choice:

It has been heartbreaking these last few days to hear the story of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old, beautiful young woman diagnosed with a glioblastoma brain tumor and given only a few months to live. The saddest part of the story for me, however, is not her prognosis, but her decision to end her life prematurely on Nov. 1 through physician-assisted suicide.

I understand she may be in great pain, and her treatment options are limited and have their own devastating side effects, but I believe Brittany is missing a critical factor in her formula for death: God. The journey Brittany — for that matter, all of us — will undertake on the other side of death is the most important venture on which we will ever embark. So it must not be disregarded or brushed aside without thinking twice about the God who alone has the right to decide when life should begin and end.

There is, of course, the usual Christian arrogance of assuming that their beliefs are universally valid, that no one else's beliefs have any substance, and that other people's decisions are somehow their business. Not to mention the denial of the fact that other people do, indeed, have the right make their own decisions about their lives without interference.

Brittany may think her choice is a highly personal and private one, but it is not. Already, her decision has reignited hotly contested debates as to whether physician-assisted suicide should be expanded beyond the five states where it is legal. Proponents of Brittany’s decision are already using her story as a bully pulpit to advance their so-called death-with-dignity agendas.

Eareckson is confusing Ms. Maynard's right to make her decision with the political struggle over -- well, people's right to make those decisions without government interference. They're not the same thing. I also might note that Eareckson is using Ms. Maynard's decision in the same way that she accuses the proponents of death with dignity, just from the opposite stand.

I don't know if I'd have the gumption to make the same decision if faced with a terminable debilitating illness. I've thought about suicide in the abstract, but I'm afraid that if I were dead, I might miss something. Besides, I'm really, really stubborn.

I do, however, think that Ms. Maynard and others in like situations should have the right to make that decision for themselves.

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