Saturday November 1, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard ended her life. She made certain to point out that her death was not suicide because she wanted to live (more on this below). You may have heard Brittany’s story: newly wed to her husband, Daniel Diaz, in September 2012 and diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, called glioblastoma, January 1, 2014. She had some surgery, according to Wikipedia, “a partial craniotomy and a partial resection of her temporal lobe“, but her cancer returned in April 2014. Her doctors gave her six months to live. Brittany was in pain but she chose to travel to enjoy life as much as possible with the little time she had; we know she was suffering for she wrote:
Sadly, it is impossible to forget my cancer. Severe headaches and neck pain are never far away, and unfortunately the next morning I had my worst seizure thus far. My speech was paralyzed for quite a while after I regained consciousness, and the feeling of fatigue continued for the rest of the day.
Brittany, along with her family, moved to Oregon to take advantage of their Death with Dignity Law because if she had stayed in California, she would have died slowly and painfully and left her husband with enormous hospital bills.
Preventing a loved one from going through an unnecessarily painful death seems something a compassionate society would welcome but, as you know, US and Canadian laws do not consistently reflect this compassion. It seems ironic because we euthanize our pets so that they do not suffer but we insist that humans are tortured by illness until the very end. It is intensely cruel. So why do humans insist on this? It is because of God. Christians believe God forbids us to commit suicide and those beliefs have seeped into our legal system. If you are skeptical that Christians really believe such things, take a look at a sample of some of the remarks to the Fox News story reporting Brittany’s death:
It’s heartening to see that some commenters eschew the notion that Brittany was wrong in her choices but the lack of compassion from those who see her as “with the devil” is really shocking to read. So much for Christian love.
Further, It is clear that Brittany had already received their scorn while she was alive, as she told People Magazine:
For people to argue against this choice for sick people really seems evil to me…They try to mix it up with suicide and that’s really unfair, because there’s not a single part of me that wants to die. But I am dying.
Her attempt to separate the meaning of suicide from her situation is a reaction to the scorn from those who see suicide, for any reason, as evil. There is nothing wrong with calling Brittany’s choice, “suicide” but the word has such stigma, thanks to the biases of religious folk, using it takes away from the euthanasia cause.
But there is hope. Although these laws reflect Christian beliefs, it seems more and more Christians are coming around. According to Dying with Dignity Canada‘s Ipsos-Reid survey, 80% of all Christians support assisted dying, including 83% of Catholics.
Most Canadians generally agree with the concept of assisted dying, regardless of how it is specifically defined. Nine in ten (91%) agree that a person should not be forced to endure drawn-out suffering, and a similar proportion (91%) agree that palliative care is not enough.
Right now, there is a court challenge for the right to die in the the case of Gloria Taylor, also known as the Carter case. The BC Supreme court ruled in Taylor’s favour and we are currently waiting for the decision from the BC Court of Appeal. The losing side intends to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada so these laws will soon be challenged nationally.
I hope Canada’s legal experts recognize the humanity of assisted dying (euthanasia) and rule accordingly.
For more information, visit the Dying with Dignity Canada web site.