Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Death with dignity

On November 1, 2014 Brittany Maynard will die. Brittany is 29, recently married and unfortunately has found out she has a brain tumor. Even worse, in April she found that her surgeries had failed and the her tumor had only grown. She was given 6 month to live.

Doctors then suggested full brain radiation due to the size of her tumor. This would mean her hair would be burned off, he scalp would be replaced with first-degree burns, and her quality of life would plummet. Months of research led to the conclusion that no treatment would save her life.

She could waste away in hospice care, with her family watching her spend her final month with
unpredictable personality changes, loss of motor skills, and in progressively worsening pain. Or she could consider a second option...

That option is physician-assisted suicide. Since it is only legal in five states, the Maynard's decided to move to Oregon. Brittany had decided to die with dignity, rather than wasting away and causing her loved ones even more grief.
I plan to be surrounded by my immediate family, which is my husband and my mother and my step-father and my best friend, who is also a physician. I will die upstairs, in my bedroom that I share with my husband, with my mother and my husband by my side and pass peacefully with some music that I like in the background.
That certainly sound like a much better way to go than being consumed by a brain tumor don't you? But does everyone agree?
I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.

I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity. My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don’t deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?
Why does it sound like this brave woman is defending her choice from criticism by those that say she shouldn't be allowed to end her own life? Because someone actually is. that someone is Matt Walsh (a conservative Christian blogger).
And given her condition, it will be easy for anyone to accuse me of being cruel and thoughtless for criticizing her choice. But, keep in mind, none of us would know about her choice if she hadn’t also chosen to publicize it.
So what if she's gone public about her story? She's fighting to make a choice that should be available an option for all.
She is a cancer patient, and she is also a very compelling spokeswoman for suicide. It is the latter point that makes it necessary for those of us who oppose the Culture of Death to speak up and say something here. Our silence could be deadly, literally and figuratively.
Culture of death? Suicide? She just doesn't want to suffer, or her family to suffer. She's dying anyway... Does Walsh realize that euthanasia is nothing like a teenager slitting his wrists because his girlfriend left him?
If there’s going to be any dissenting voices at all — anyone chiming in to mention that perhaps we shouldn’t treat suicide like a legitimate medical solution for cancer — now would be the time to hear from them. So far, the reaction and the reporting on Brittany’s case have been disturbingly one-sided.
The irony of this dude with tattoos telling you euthanasia is bad
'because Bible', when the Bible also says tattoos are bad.
No one is suggesting that everyone with cancer should just be killed. Brittany is dying anyway, she's just deciding the where and when.
Across national media and social media, I’ve been sickened to see that suicide is now most commonly described with words like ‘dignity,’ ‘bravery,’ ‘courage,’ and ‘strength.’ Popular refrains apparently only ever used to justify some form of murder and destruction have been trotted out once again: ‘it’s her body,’ ‘it’s her choice,’ ‘it’s her life.’
She is facing death head-on. Rather than hiding in the corner, asking 'why me?' or just slipping into a deep depression until she dies. That is incredibly brave whether Walsh think so or not.
If you are saying that it is dignified and brave for a cancer patient to kill themselves, what are you saying about cancer patients who don’t? What about a woman who fights to the end, survives for as long as she can, and withers away slowly, in agony, until her very last breath escapes her lungs?

Is that person not brave? Is that person not dignified? I thought we applaud that kind of person. I thought we admire her courage and tenacity. Sorry, you can’t advance two contradictory narratives at once. If fighting cancer is brave then it is brave PRECISELY BECAUSE she is fighting it rather than giving up and choosing death.

In other words, if struggling against cancer until the bitter end is an act of courage, then it can’t also be an act of courage to opt out and ‘leave on your own terms.’ What makes one courageous is that it is not the other. What makes one commendable is that the other choice exists, yet the heroic individual takes the more admirable route.

So which is it? Which path should we admire?
How about both... Either choice can be brave for their own reasons. It can be brave to accept the suffering and hope to last long enough to see a day when your condition can be treated. It can also be brave to face the reality that you are going to die soon and that there is nothing you can do about it. No one wants to die. Brittany has stated as such. But she realizes that she doesn't have a choice. She is dying no matter what. She has faced this harsh reality and come to terms with it. She is making the irreversible choice to cut her life a little short in order to spare her loved ones from having to watch what will happen if she doesn't. This is quite a brave act indeed.
Don’t you understand what you are saying? She is dying with dignity, which means dying of cancer is not dignified. You are accusing people who die of cancer of having no dignity. That is what you are saying. Own it. Confront it. Take responsibility for the words you use.
No, it isn't saying that at all. She's dying the way she chooses. A person that is given both options and decides to take the option of letting cancer run it's course is also making their own choice. Sometimes that choice can lead to terrible suffering, but they still got to make their own choice.
And what does it mean, anyway, to say that euthanasia is ‘leaving on your own terms’? Do we somehow achieve a victory over death by using it to escape the pain of life? ‘Your own terms’? The terms of the drug maker who concocted the poison pill, perhaps, but your own? Hardly. None of us get to die on our own terms, because if we did then I’m sure our terms would be a perfect, happy, and healthy life, where pain and death never enter into the picture at all.
How deluded... Everyone dies. It is an inescapable truth. To claim this is an attempt to beat death is absurd. The only thing being talked about here is offering the dying the option to die without suffering.
We can’t take possession of our lives like a two-year-old grabbing a toy from his friend and shouting ‘Mine!’ 
So we should allow Walsh to shout 'Mine!' and let him dictate our final days instead?

Also, her death will not be an ask of being selfish, but selfless. A huge part of why she is making this choice is to spare her family. To keep them from having to watch her suffer, and to keep the person they eventually have to bury from being someone other than the Brittany they know and love.
Now, I admit, if we are nothing and we came from nothing and will return to nothing, then I suppose suicide makes some sort of sense. It returns the body to our natural state of nothingness. It brings us home into the abyss, where there is no self, no reason, no existence. But most people don’t think that. Most of us are not radical nihilists.
For crying out loud! Euthanasia and waiting for death lead to the same damn place. Does Walsh not realize that? Choosing to forgo a couple months of terrible suffering does not mean that you think life is meaningless. She led her life and no doubt wishes for more. But being alive doesn't always mean you're living life. Being trapped in a bed, in constant pain, not yourself, and unable to move... Is that still life? Sure you are alive, but why leave life on an incredible low, when you could leave it on so much better terms?
So if God reached out from the depths of eternity to hand us this life of ours, how can we think it acceptable — or worse, meritable — to throw it out before our time is finished?
A god that you have never been able to produce evidence for... But lets skip that fact and talk about how this god set up a plan to come down to Earth just to have himself killed. He worships a god that set up his own suicide mission, but has a problem with assisted suicide? How does one have a problem with one and not the other?
 If you celebrate suicide, then you have answered these questions: life is nothingness, we are here for no reasons, and there is no point.
Wrong. This is not a discussion about if people should just kill themselves all willy-nilly. It's not about people thinking life is worthless and just killing themselves one day. This is about people that value their life and quality of life not wanting their final days to be a nightmare. They value life and want the end of it to reflect the better side of life rather than let it be marred by needless suffering.

Walsh goes on to argue that euthanasia is a conflict to healthcare. He acts like euthanasia is being suggested as a treatment for cancer. That the doctor has to agree that your life is 'worthless'. That it will lead from voluntary to involuntary euthanasia, and that patients should keep fighting to the end of the road.

To the surprise of no one, he just doesn't get it. And I have a feeling he's being deliberate in that regard. (Again) Euthanasia is not being suggested as a treatment, but an option when it is found that death is, unfortunately, the only outcome. Doctors still do everything they can in the states where it is an option, but not everyone can be saved. Euthanasia is also not about life being worthless. It is about coming to the conclusion that this life can't be saved. Though he claims otherwise, Walsh claiming doctors will just start deciding who should die without asking the patient is slippery-slope

And finally, people like Brittany are fighting to the end of the road. She had surgery, but it didn't work. She was left with the choice of getting radiation in order to trade quality of life for maybe an extra month or two, or dying on her terms. The end of the road is when the doctors determine that they can't save you. She didn't just get cancer and decide to die the moment she found out. She fought, she had the operations and procedures. But they didn't work, and there was nothing they could do to save her life. She reached the end of the road and then choose her fate.
Death is not a solution. Suicide is not dignified. Killing yourself to escape suffering is not brave. It is, in fact, the antithesis of bravery.
What a ghoul! So now Walsh is calling her a coward... How classy. She has made a brave choice. Sorry if it doesn't mesh with his religion. But as with all these issues, there is an easy solution...

Don't like assisted suicide? Don't get one.
Don't like gay marriage? Don't get gay married.
Don't like abortion? Don't get one.
...and the list goes on...

Please tell me why those against euthanasia are usually also for the death penalty. That just seems contradictory to me. Also, what happened to this Christian mercy I keep hearing about? It sure sounds to me that Walsh is speaking out against mercy.
I am terrified to think that my children will grow up in a culture that openly venerates suicide with this much unyielding passion....
Okay, I've had enough. Walsh loves calling this suicide. Just plain old suicide... But that's not what Brittany is doing. The issue is euthanasia. This is a standard practice in one medical field that any animal lover has probably had to, or will have to deal with. Euthanasia does not stop veterinarians from doing everything they can to save a beloved pet, so why are we supposed to believe that the same option will cause regular doctors to throw their hands up and not really try?

But back to euthanizing a pet. Anyone who's ever faced this choice knows it's a hard one. And almost anyone will tell you that what Walsh is suggesting is incredibly cruel. He would have you just let Fido suffer until he eventually died. This would be outright cruelty.

I faced this choice a few years ago. We had a wonderful loving cat in our lives for a short two years. She turned up as a stray one Winter day and we took her in. Luna quickly warmed up and showed just how sweet and loving she was. She adored us, would follow me everywhere, and we loved her right back. But one day she just went missing. We turned the house over looking for her only to locate Luna acting very sick and hiding in a dark corner of the basement.

After a few visits to the vet, it was diagnosed that her organs where starting to shut down and there was nothing that could be done. She could maybe live a little while longer, but suffering greatly. The other option was to say goodbye to my little friend and select euthanasia. She sat on that table looking at us with those amber eyes of hers like she often did.

Luna, we'll always miss you girl.
Her eyes full of the trust that she always gave us. That we would love her and do everything we could to keep her safe and keep her from harm. As terrible of a feeling as it was to cause those beautiful trusting eyes to shut for good, we couldn't betray that trust. We had to do what was best for her and free her from her suffering.

It would have been selfish and wrong to do nothing and allow her to suffer a few more days... Just watching her descend and suffer more and more by the hour... Allowing such a thing would be cruel and inhumane, yet that's the fate Walsh thinks every person should be forced to face. If it is inhumane to force an animal to suffer, then why is it not inhumane to force a person to suffer?

So make no mistake, Walsh is blinded by the black and white views that his unyielding grasp on his irrational and unethical holy book provides him. And despite what he says, Brittany Maynard is not a coward. She is bravely facing death and using her tragedy to try and get every person the option to at least make the same choice she did without having to uproot their family to another state.

-Brain Hulk

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