Thursday, November 13, 2014

god is brittany maynard

There aren't many completers of suicide who get their pictures on People magazine, let alone getting them on it before they commit it. Brittany Maynard, who at least one commentator has referred to as giving "physician-assisted suicide a very public, and in her case, young (29) and attractive face," has achieved that, however. But we shouldn't hold against her either her attraction, her publicity savvy, nor even her lack of outward signs of the brain cancer that would kill her more slowly but as surely as whatever method she used to complete her decision.

As ever, I'm conflicted about this decision. As with all personal, life-changing ones made by others, it really isn't up to me to even have much of an opinion on it, but in my head there is more than enough death to go around. We don't need to add ourselves to the ever-growing heap.

But some of us feel like we do, and we make those decisions, I accept, without rancor, clear-headed, perhaps even without the expectation of the incredible vacuum our decision will make in the lives of our loved ones (and even those we are certain don't love us) left behind. Yes, some of us do this almost like life is an afterthought. But most don't. I don't believe for a moment Brittany Maynard's decision was either haphazard or born in anger. It struck her, and most of those around her, as rational and maybe inevitable.

I've said before that no matter how bad things have been in my life, I haven't thought of ending it (at least since my teens when, like everyone else, hormones raged through my body like the Russian Army advancing on Moscow). But just because it isn't an answer (or even a question) for me doesn't mean it shouldn't be either of those for others. I respect that most people who approach this decision do so with a clear and sober head and with an understanding of what effect their act will have on the community surrounding them. People may ask, "Where's god in all this?" as if the decision in question is made secretively, out of god's sight. My answer is that it's god making the decision, rightly and wrongly.

Perhaps that's the key: that, like Maynard, people don't make the decision in the quiet desperation of their own minds but in full view and with the feedback of their loving community. Their community may be composed of people (like me) whose job it is to dissuade them from the act, but that doesn't make our response to them any less loving. It's true what Donne writes, that no man is an island. But it's equally true that no one lives in a vacuum.

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  2. There is suicide, that which is driven by despair and isolation; and then there is "suicide" that is a compassionate way of dying, as in Maynard's case. Some states allow compassionate dying for those with terminal illness and advanced diseased states, all done in a community - as you state. To suffer and linger while one is conscious of their suffering is cruel medical practice. To allow supervised compassionate dying is not playing god; rather it is playing human. I do not want to linger in a long state of dementia and immobility, to be a burden to others as they struggle to pay for my care. I would rather be able to choose, when I am still able to choose, that a painless, compassionate death not be denied me. Perhaps it is a civil right or a demand to prevent needless suffering - I don't know. I do know, however, that too many people are suffering as they linger for years, and I do not want to be one of them. There's enough suffering to go around already.