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Archives Brittany’s choice: my life, my death, my choice?

Oct. 22, 2014

By Kathleen M. Gallagher
Director of Pro-Life Activities
New York State Catholic Conference

“My life. My death, My choice.”

That’s the slogan of the assisted suicide advocacy organization called “Compassion and Choices.” They used to be called the Hemlock Society, and they promote the so-called “right to die.”

They are currently working with a 29-year-old terminally ill woman named Brittany Maynard. She has become something of a social media sensation, with her on-line video having been viewed more than five million times.
In the video, Brittany explains her diagnosis of brain cancer and the medical prognosis of only months to live. She is a sympathetic person, a newlywed, attractive, always adventurous… hiking, kayaking, traveling…things she continues to do while she is able.

But Brittany says she is choosing to die on her own terms.

She has moved from California to Oregon because Oregon law allows for doctor-assisted suicide.

She has already asked for and received a lethal dose of drugs from a physician there, pills that she plans to ingest while in her home surrounded by her family.

How very, very sad.

I can understand fear of pain and suffering. But ask any doctor who works with cancer patients or the terminally ill and they will tell you that the level of opioids available today work magnificently in treating physical pain.
Side effects of the drugs can be managed effectively. Palliative care and symptom management are top notch in this country.

It’s the emotional pain that is harder to manage.

Terminal patients often fear losing their dignity, being a burden on others, losing the ability to do the things they have always done. For someone as young and active as Brittany, it must be particularly difficult.

In her video, Brittany’s mom says that her daughter has always been a “very autonomous person.” Perhaps that is what Brittany fears most: losing her autonomy. 

Statistics from states with legal “aid-in-dying” reveal that loss of autonomy is the number one reason cited for choosing death.

In Washington state, 91% of patients requesting lethal drugs cited it, while only 36% cited concern about possible pain.

The major media is glorifying Brittany’s impending death, calling her brave, making her a hero.

Again, I can only feel sadness, as I watch her being exploited as a fundraising tool by Compassion and Choices. Check out their website (www.compassionandchoices.org ); they really have a campaign in Brittany’s name to raise money to legalize assisted suicide in all 50 states.

It makes me wonder if suicide really is Brittany’s free choice.

Brittany says she wants to “pass in peace,” and to “enjoy as many days as she has left, surrounded by those she loves.” I wish I could tell her “You can! You don’t need to kill yourself! You can enjoy a peaceful, natural death, in relative comfort, surrounded by love and acceptance and grace. Life is a gift. It is always worth living!”

As Christians, we believe that every human life is created with inherent dignity, so in that sense, every death is a death with dignity. 

We don’t lose our dignity because we become sick or weakened.

Those whose lives are diminished deserve our special respect, love and concern.

It is not “our life, our death, nor our choice.” There is no absolute freedom to do as we wish with our life nor to control the manner of our death.

Our life is a gift that we hold in trust from God the Creator.

“None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” Romans 14: 7-8:


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