A Follow-Up to Brittany Maynard’s Story

A couple of weeks ago, I linked to the story of a woman who is choosing to die this Saturday.

This week, I found (…read) a response to her by a Catholic seminarian. The man also has terminal brain cancer, and he has chosen to waste away under the disease until it takes his life.

Let me be clear on one point: that is his choice, and it is his right to make that choice. It is going to sound as though I do not agree that this choice is his right, because I disagree with his choice, or at least the reasoning behind it.

However, the more important point is that it is NOT his right to deny Brittany her own choice, and that is exactly what he is trying to do with that article. His beliefs do not give him a right to deny her her choice, any more than she would have a right to deny him his. While he does have a right to shame her due to free speech, his doing so is deplorable, reflecting more on his character than hers. It only harms the discussion, not furthering it.

He says, “My family and friends love me for who I am, not just for the personality traits that will slowly slip away if this tumor progresses and takes my life.” Not only does this imply that Brittany’s friends and family don’t love her for who she is, it ignores the fact that personality traits are who you are. If your entirely personality changes, you are a different person. He is even aware of this on some level, as he later says, “My illness has become a part of me, and while it does not define me as a person, it has shaped who I am and who I will become.”

“Every day of life is a gift, and gifts can be taken away in an instant,” he says, apparently unaware that anyone who would give a gift and then take it back is a jerk.

“Suffering is not worthless, and our lives are not our own to take.” Well, no. Suffering for the sake of suffering, as this man is doing, is worthless. He will gain nothing from it, and his family will only lose. It’s terminal brain cancer. It will steal everything he is away from him, making him experience excruciating pain all the while. Brittany, on the other hand, decided that she would rather die before all of that. Who she is will still be intact, saving not only herself but her friends and family untold suffering.

He calls her decision “anything but brave” and implies that she is making a selfish choice. The irony is apparently lost on him, as he plans to be a burden on his loved ones and on society and on doctors and on the medical system. He is causing his family needless suffering, because he selfishly glorifies suffering. By choosing to die, the woman is allowing her family’s last memories of her to be of her, not of having to bathe and change the diapers of her empty shell.

Again, it is his right to allow the disease to take his life. But his reasons for doing so are faulty, and he is wrong to attack Brittany for choosing to die with dignity.

I put the question to my reader of which is more brave: clinging to life despite the suffering it causes when you believe in an afterlife, or choosing to avoid suffering for yourself and your family when you think this life is all there is? I know what my answer is.

Footnote: I don’t actually know whether Brittany believes in an afterlife; maybe she does, and choosing to die really is her taking what seems the easier way out. What I do know is that her decision was not made lightly, for no such decision ever could be.

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