Back in late October/early November, the story of Brittany Maynard was making the rounds. For those that may be unfamiliar with her story, or who want a refresh, you can follow THIS link.
I honestly can't fathom what it must be like knowing in advance that I would die a long, slow, agonizingly painful death. Forget water-boarding, as that's real torture. And yet in the midst of that, the late Ms Maynard made the decision to engage in a public dialogue about her desire to die on her own terms. Courage? You bet, in copious amounts.
Now I do understand the religious objections of those who believe that what Ms Maynard did was wrong. In fact, some religions teach that suffering in this world somehow brings you closer to God, pointing to the long, drawn-out illness of the late Pope John Paul II as an example of to suffer with dignity. As for me, well I am not in the business of telling anyone that...
...they should suffer
...that suffering is somehow a good and noble thing
...that suffering will somehow lead to eternal rewards later
...as all of that is beyond my pay-grade. I also believe it is above your pay grade too, no matter who you are by the way. Yes, in the end, if we can't control what happens with our own bodies, then in essence we control nothing. Maybe that's part of the point, namely that we really don't control anything. But so I digress.
I do think that the way Ms Maynard chose to talk about her decision, in a very public manner, was a good thing for our society. Ms Maynard gave those who disagree with her decision an opportunity to voice their opinions, and it also gave many others the opportunity to consider a topic that simply doesn't come up in casual conversation all that often. Again, this was one very courageous lady.
As for me, well I have a living will filled with plenty of instructions on how my end of life decisions are to be made. What would I do in Ms Maynard's position? As noted above I don't know, but that's the central point of this, namely that I don't know...nor do you. What seems to me to matter here is that we should have the right to face these kinds of things on our own terms, as guided by whatever we believe. That means without the unwanted interference of others, where "others" would be the government or religious institutions. Yes, if your religious convictions tell you that assisted suicide is wrong then you must have the right to abide by those kinds of teachings. However it's the converse that I find troubling: other people's religious teachings...not our, but others...can interfere with this decision making process for you. There is no dignity in having an outside institution make end of life decisions for you.
I hope you are resting in peace Ms Maynard.
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