(Photo: Brittany Maynard)
Brittany Maynard, the terminally ill 29-year-old woman who went public with her decision to end her life on November first, is having second thoughts. In a new video, she says that she doesn’t feel ill enough to give in now, probably thinking she may have a few more weeks or months of quality living before the worst part of her cancer sets in. That’s great news for her! It’s a good thing, for sure, to hear a cancer-stricken woman feel like she’s not ready to die. I also think that if she wants to waffle about ending her life, she should feel free to do so.
Some people disagree with what I think and what Maynard thinks. Here’s what I think in response to that: How. Dare. They.
I understand the religious/spiritual argument against euthanasia (or assisted suicide, or dying with dignity, self-abortion, perma-peacing out, whatever-have-you). The general thinking is that we are not in control of our lives, our lives have meaning and purpose, and a higher power is what chooses the time we shuffle off this mortal coil. That is truly beautiful and I hope those people feel the same way when they, themselves, are trapped in a slowly failing body that can no longer hold in any fluids, make voluntary movements or sounds, or feel anything besides excruciating pain. And if they find themselves in such a state and still want to hang on until the aforementioned higher power gives them the thumbs-up, then that’s great for them, too.
Brittany Maynard doesn’t want to wait until she loses every single part of her that makes her a person. She wants to choose the time, the place and the manner of her death while she can still say goodbye to the people she loves, breathe fresh air with ease, enjoy every bite of food with relish and walk as far as she can without struggle. She wants control over her farewell. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want that? Hell, I think she should throw a party for herself.
But that’s just me. Other people have found it proper to apply their own personal beliefs to someone who isn’t them. The only conceivable reasons why they would do that must be a) they need to get web traffic or b) they don’t understand that we’re all going to die one way or another eventually.
That’s the only thing I can think of when I read articles like Matt Walsh’s on The Blaze. I don’t question his beliefs as they apply to him. But he is the only person to whom his beliefs apply. He spends his post both simultaneously “having sympathy” for a terminally ill young woman and judging the shit out of her. It comes down to this: He doesn’t think she has control over her life because as a believer in a higher power, he doesn’t think he has control over his life, so he’s going to act like he has some kind of control over her life. Does that even make sense? No, of course it doesn’t.
Suicide is not brave, he says. People who commit suicide aren’t heroes, survivors are. Well, that’s bullshit. No one is a hero (or a coward) because they choose to live with or die from an illness. Strength in the face of disease is admirable, of course, but people with illnesses do what they can to get better because that’s what you do when you’re ill. And when you can’t get better, you try to feel better. And when there is no feeling better anymore, why should you have to suffer for an indeterminate amount of time because “God… [handed] us this life of ours” and it’s God’s choice when to take it away?
With all due respect, how dare anyone take away the one thing Brittany Maynard can control? Let me try speaking the language of the religious: Allowing her to be in charge of her last few moments alive should be God’s gift to her. If He created us and gave us free will (which some argue He didn’t, but He must have or else there wouldn’t be murder, war, politics on television, internet comment sections…) then that includes choosing what we do with our physical bodies, including disposing of that body when it breaks down beyond repair.
Walsh also argues that the desire to die with dignity or to help someone do so must mean that life is worthless or disposable to those people. What a dick! Maynard’s life is anything but worthless to her, which is why she doesn’t want to die a shriveled vegetable, unable to enjoy the limited life she was given.
No, we don’t have control over our lives. That’s exactly why we should be able to choose our own death.
One of the most fascinating shows I’ve ever seen is Showtime’s Time of Death. What makes it so wonderful is its sheer, naked honesty. If we’re being honest with ourselves, physical death is the only promise in our lives that is 100 certain to be kept and it is neither beautiful nor romantic. There is no getting around it. No one can tell you what happens — if anything does happen — before our lives begin or after our lives end, but our bodies are definitely going to die no matter how hard our brains and guts will try to fight it and it’s not going to be pretty. The subjects on Time of Death would never be ready to die, but they had something even better than that: acceptance that death was inevitable. Death is not something we should fear because like it or not, it’s going to happen to all of us.
Brittany Maynard knows this all too well, as do many people living with painful terminal illnesses. So, anyone who isn’t those people or the people close to them, take a knee. When your time comes, whatever you do is your prerogative.