Brittany Maynard was a high-profile case in this debate.

brittany-maynardBrittany Maynard followed through with her promise to end her life.  The Oregonian reported yesterday that the non-profit organization Compassion & Choices confirmed that the 29-year-old did commit suicide.

Maynard who moved from California to Oregon because of the state’s Death with Dignity Act was diagnosed with a grade four glioblastoma, a malignant and aggressive form of brain tumor.  She was given six months to live and eventually decided that she would end her life on November 1st after her husband’s birthday.

The news of her death comes shortly after she released a video that suggested she was postponing her planned suicide.  In the video Maynard said, “I still feel good enough and I still have enough joy and I still laugh and smile with my family and friends enough that it doesn’t seem like the right time right now.  But it will come, because I feel myself getting sicker. It’s happening each week.”

People Magazine reported that Maynard posted on her Facebook page. “Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more,” Maynard wrote on Facebook. “The world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers. I even have a ring of support around my bed as I type … Goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!”

I am sorry that Maynard was diagnosed with such a horrible disease, seeing cancer take the life of a couple of family members and my son being a cancer survivor I can empathize with what she was going through.  Cancer stinks.  The treatment stinks as it seems almost as bad, if not worse, than the cancer itself.  Even though my son’s prognosis was good (we celebrated his being a tw0-year cancer survivor last month) there were some bad days.

We had hope however.  What will probably be my most cherished memory in the midst of hearing the awful news that my then 13-year-old son had cancer  (Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma with bulk disease) was his response to my question about whether he was worried or afraid – “What do I have to be worried about dad?  I have Jesus,” he told me.

“I have Jesus.”  I am not Maynard’s judge, but I discern she was without the hope that Morgan had.  She is now before a Just Judge and He will determine this.

Even if Morgan’s cancer wasn’t treatable he had Jesus.  His hope would then be in the resurrection and new life to come.

Maynard seemed bound by a fear of death and suffering.  In Hebrews we are told that Jesus came to release us from that.  “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery,” (Hebrews 2:14-15, ESV).

Many people in response to this news have called this woman brave.  I beg to differ.  She was afraid of suffering.  People have also called this act “dignified.”

Those who suffer from depression feel like they are suffering.  Is their act of suicide “dignified” as well?  Are those who champion this act saying my grandmother’s death in a hospice was somehow undignified?

I am troubled with how this decision is praised and how groups like Compassion & Choices will try to make sure people “have the right to die with dignity” in other states.  We’ve seen this in Europe.  The “right” to die has now become a “duty” to die, and in even some cases state-sanctioned murder.

Is this the direction we really want to head in this nation?

I appreciate what Maggie Karner, who is battling the same disease Maynard was diagnosed with, wrote dignity doesn’t lie in the death, but in love.

But there isn’t any dignity in cancer or other debilitating illness. In my own treatment, I’ve been poked, prodded, radiated, chemotherapied, and cut open so many times that I stopped worrying about being dignified quite some time ago. Instead, I prefer to get my dignity by appreciating the dear people who care for me with their individual expressions of love and prayers on my behalf.

One thing, that unfortunately people are missing here is this – not only is suicide not brave or dignified, it is also very, very selfish.  Unfortunately we live in a culture that fosters selfishness.  Look again above to the statement from her video and her last Facebook post… I… I… I… Me… Me… Me…

Suicide is selfish because it first shakes a fist in the face of God who is the Author of life and He is the one who determines the length of our days.  You essentially are saying, “I know better than you God!”  Who knows what God may have done in Maynard’s life and the lives of her loved ones in the midst of suffering.  Suffering is, by the way, something we all will experience in some form or fashion as a result of living in a broken, sinful world.  Instead of running from it or finding an easy way out we are told to rejoice in it, (Romans 5:3) which is obviously counter-cultural.

Suicide is also selfish because the person who commits it ultimately robs their loved ones of the extra time they could have had.  There has been all sorts of advancements in pain management.  While her quality of life would obviously not been the same she would still have those extra moments with her family that they would cherish.  Now they will never know.

Karner wrote of her own father’s passing…

When I was a young mother, my father had a traumatic accident that severed his spinal cord and left him paralyzed from the neck down. The last five months of my father’s life, which he lived as a paraplegic, were filled with utter helplessness. He wasn’t productive in any meaningful way. He couldn’t even shave his own face. Would Emanuel or Maynard find my dad’s life useless? I didn’t. My siblings and I soaked up our father’s presence, realizing that caring for the needy person we loved so dearly showed each of us some unexpected things about ourselves. As writer Cheryl Magness says, caregivers get a chance to grow in compassion, responsibility, and selflessness as they care for those in need.

Karner was spot on in regards to the worst thing that could happen to her.

This will serve me now as I face my own debilitating mortality. Death sucks. And while this leads many to attempt to calm their fears by grasping for personal control over the situation, as a Christian with a Savior who loves me dearly and who has redeemed me from a dying world, I have a higher calling. God wants me to be comfortable in my dependence on Him and others, to live with Him in peace and comfort no matter what comes my way. As for my cancer journey, circumstances out of my control are not the worst thing that can happen to me. The worst thing would be losing faith, refusing to trust in God’s purpose in my life and trying to grab that control myself.

One week before my grandmother passed, I sat next to her hospice bed on Easter discussing her funeral.  She was comforted by the truth of the resurrection.  Because Jesus conquered death she would as well as a child of God coming home when called.  Physical death is not the end.  It is only the beginning.  Suffering can produce good.  There is no dignity in choosing to kill oneself and seeking to avoid suffering and pain is not brave.

Suicide is never the answer to suffering.  It just causes more pain.

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  1. I have a hard time believing that Jesus is a sadist who authored a type of cancer that consumes your brain from the inside out. Or an enthusiast of the life-destroying pain bone cancer, or the holy creator of all things Huntington’s slowly vacating a person’s ability to feel and think.

    I also have a hard time believe that Jesus is #1 for watching His children evaporate and become pre-dead shells of the people they once were.

    I mean, is that how I’m SUPPOSED to hope my life ends … in incomprehensible, unyielding pain that tears my body asunder, so that we can all gain some “good” sick, perverted appreciation of how miserable suffering is?

    Screw that.

  2. comparing your son’s 2nd stage hodgkin’s lymphoma
    The overall five-year survival rate in the United States for 2004–2010 is 85%

    Glioblastoma multiforme
    Median survival with standard-of-care radiation and chemotherapy with temozolomide is 15 months.[2] Median survival without treatment is 4½ months.

    You’re entitled to your personal opinion. But, I found it a little tasteless to use your son’s battle with cancer in your argument. So should’ve she just have suffered for the last few months, having her family members changing her diapers as she lost her dignity? It’s easy for you to judge from your own shoes, why don’t you try being in the shoes of the girl who took her life, or the nurses and doctors who have to give medical treatment to prolong the inevitable and rack up medical bills.

    1. I know we are not comparing apples to apples here. That wasn’t my intent. Tasteless? I disagree, it’s an experience that I can relate to this particular topic. I think I was pretty clear that it wasn’t the same. We did have several difficulties during chemo where he had pneumonia, a temperature of 105 and was having difficulty breathing.

      Your stat (which I’m already quite aware of) doesn’t mean a hill of beans in those moments.

      Because it isn’t comparing apples to apples I shared the testimony of the woman who is going through the same form of cancer. Are you going to dismiss her opinion as well.

      Setting aside Brittany’s suicide. What I’m most troubled by is the view that suicide is brave and dignified. This is not a positive message to our culture. Also as I’ve stated before the “right to die” eventually becomes the “duty to die” which is something we already see in Europe. This is not the road we want to follow.

  3. Shane,

    Jesus was full of compassion and love. Surely you agree? In these cases I always think to when he said that he without sin should cast the first stone. Although her taking her life in a planned way may bother you, it is not showing love and compassion to judge so quickly, and so severely. You state you are not Maynard’s judge, but then the whole article says she was selfish, cowardly, and undignified in death. She now has a grieving family who I hope won’t read this article. As for yourself, you may want to pray about your judgements and lack of compassion. You too will be in front of a just judge someday who will determine your future.


    1. Where did I judge her? I believe I said that was God’s job, not mine. I’m not being compassionate because I feel one shouldn’t kill himself or herself? You must be redefining the word.

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