So there’s a lot of crazy stuff trending online this week. Lots of pain. Lots of suffering. I hope you’ll forgive this slightly tangential but definitely related contribution to my 31 days series.
One of the saddest things I’ve read is the story of beautiful Brittany Maynard. 29 years old. Newlywed. Terminal brain cancer. You’ve probably read her story. If you haven’t, I’ll give you a minute to click over. Then go ahead and read this and this, while you’re at it.
She’s really sick. She’s been given a death sentence, basically. And she has, in the face of unimaginable suffering and terror, decided to take matters into her own hands through the hands of her doctor and end her life via assisted suicide rather than face down the specter of the unknown.
On some level I get it. She’s been given this horrific prognosis and has been told in exacting detail how heinous her suffering will be. The interviews she has given paint the picture of a woman used to being in control all her life, and her doctors have told her she will inevitably lose that, along with her life. Who wouldn’t be afraid?
What I’m mostly struggling with is the reaction to Brittany’s story in the media, and on social media.
Scrolling through the comments on the pieces I’ve read about her this week I’m most struck by the pervasive sense of fear and, God forgive me, cowardice imbued in so many of them.
We put animals down when they’re in pain, humans deserve the same right. It’s a basic human right to have the chance to die with dignity. (Dignity here being defined as controlled, on one’s own terms)
I hope I’ll be that brave when the time comes.
Good for her, she deserves to choose the hour and the day. While my heart is breaking for Brittany and her husband, I can’t help but feel sickened and enraged by the massive outpouring of support for the proposed suicide of a fellow human being. This woman has announced to the world that she intends to kill herself in order to avoid the tragic, wasting consequences of her hideous disease, and the world is cheering her on.
Listen, this is madness. This is evil incarnate. This is the very epitome of the culture of death.
In celebrating her “right” to end her life, she is being used as a pawn to advance an agenda that claims to bestow “dignity” and “compassion” on circumstances already fraught with suffering and pain.
This woman is dying. She quite possibly is suffering from mental illness from the effects of her disease on top of it all. And we’re racking up likes and shares all over social media, gushing about bravery and compassion and strength.
Is this the same culture that mourned the death of Robin Williams en masse just last month? Was his suicide not heralded as brave because his illness was depression and not cancer? How has the conversation pivoted so dramatically in such a short time?
This woman is walking in her final weeks, perhaps her final days, and rather than serving her in her time of greatest need, the world is clamoring to hasten her demise.
There is nothing compassionate about giving someone the tools to end their own life.
But we live in a world that recoils from suffering, that sees no meaning in the cross.
Brittany’s life has meaning. And her death will have meaning, too. Christ crucified and resurrected guarantees this.
But to celebrate death, to tout death as the cure for her terrible illness…it is the least humane of all possible options. And her husband, her poor, brokenhearted and newly-wedded husband. He is standing by his bride’s side and watching her announce, to the world, that she’s taking her own life before cancer can take it from her. And he’s cheering her on.
It’s not supposed to end like that.
I am not judging Britanny Maynard. God knows she is carrying a heavy cross, and I pray that she will experience a change of heart and a conversion to Christ. But I am judging a culture that would jump up and down with excitement at the idea of a person having the right to choose the moment and the means of their own death and would call it brave.
That’s not brave.
May God have mercy on her and on her family. And may her husband recall his wedding vows, freshly pledged, promising faithfulness in sickness and in health.
Don’t do it, Brittany. Every moment of your life has meaning, and your suffering is not in vain. You have a right to be here. Every moment of the life you have been given is a gift, and nobody has the right to take it from you.