I’m sure if you use the internet and have seen any news recently you’re aware of the story of Brittany Maynard, the young lady with stage 4 terminal brain cancer, who has chosen to die in early November rather than suffer through the debilitating symptoms of her cancer to the end. It’s a very heart-wrenching story of how she is choosing her own dignity and compassion for her family over fighting an incurable disease.
People all over the internet are condemning her for her choice. They say she is “taking this out of god’s hands.” How could any so-called loving deity want someone to suffer the way she is suffering? I don’t understand this line of thinking. She is going to die anyway. It’s not that she is taking her own life that would otherwise show so much promise and that if she didn’t end it when she is choosing to that she’d live to old age. She’s going to die. One way or another it will be ending soon. She is already experiencing excruciating symptoms of her advanced disease. Very few people with stage 4 glioblastoma survive, and those that do are forever changed for the worst.
I think her choice is not just about herself. It’s also about those she loves dearly. She knows what living to the end will mean for not only herself but for her loved ones. She is choosing to spare them the worst of the experience by dying peacefully and quietly, not painfully and perhaps violently.
I have a friend who was diagnosed in his early 20’s with glioblastoma. He did survive, but he is now probably the most miserable man I know. He had just started his adult life. He had his first job and his first vehicle before being diagnosed. He did all of the things typical of young men. He went out with his friends on the weekends, he loved his family and his nieces and nephews, he worked hard, he had a girlfriend he loved, and he had dreams he was working to accomplish. All of this changed with his diagnosis. He underwent multiple surgeries to remove the tumor from his brain.
Now, instead of being a fully functioning adult, his mother has told me he has the mentality of a young teenager. He can no longer drive. He can’t remember short-term plans or sometimes where he is if it is an unfamiliar place. His girlfriend broke up with him because she couldn’t handle all of the medical drama that was going on. He no longer has dreams of a brighter future. He’s had violent seizures, and has been so depressed he’s needed to be hospitalized in a mental institution. His weight has sky-rocketed and he has no self-esteem. Yes, he survived and is in remission, but what is his life like now? Maybe when he said he wanted to just be allowed to die, his wish should have been honored.
His diagnosis and treatment has been absolute hell on his entire family. They love him dearly and fought this disease sometimes harder than he did. I’m not by any means saying this was the right answer for them, but perhaps, if their state had “Death with Dignity” laws in place, he would have been able to choose, instead of having to fight.
I believe that people should have the right to choose what happens in their life. If they are faced with a slow and painful but certain death, they should be allowed to take these matters into their own hands and choose to die quietly and peacefully. Ever since man learned how to prepare medicine out of herbs, shamans and medicine men have been administering lethal preparations to people to allow them to pass from this life peacefully. I do not understand why, in this age of advanced medicine and knowledge, we suddenly remove this option from those suffering the most. This is by far the most inhumane thing we could do. Hospice care is not for everyone, and some people would rather not spend their last moments so doped up on pain medications they cannot give their loved ones a proper farewell.