The recent experience of Brittany Maynard, including her suffering and recent physician-assisted suicide has been a heart-wrenching time. Her videos have been moving. Her story has been painful. Her death has been emotionally divisive.
I say thank God for Brittany Maynard.
The reason that I say that is that this is so much bigger than one 29-year old woman, as sad as her situation was. Her legacy will have been the bringing of this issue into the open and the reigniting of the conversation.
I will confess that as I watched her video (I only watched one), that I was sympathetic. Who would want to go through pain? Who would want a slow agonizing death? There is something attractive about taking the uncontrollable back into control.
It is normal for us to have these feelings. We should be moved to sympathy. Hers, along with thousands of others, is a terrible situation. It is something that we all pray will not happen to us or our loved ones. We should be mourning with and praying for Brittany’s family.
Having said that, the development of public policy should not be based on the emotions that we feel for this one young woman.
Should physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia be legal? People point to the most extreme cases where there is agonizing pain and terrible suffering. The truth is that in most (although admittedly not all) cases, doctors are able to manage pain. Services such as hospices are very capable of managing the emotional pain that goes with dying.
What really concerns me is that when a country decides to legalize euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, it never stays at those worst cases. We have the advantage of being able to observe the developments in Belgium and the Netherlands. We can see where euthanasia has gone. It is no longer just about physical pain. Those with emotional pain can now seek to end their life. It is also no longer strictly about those who seek it. Doctors are able to euthanize patients without their permission or knowledge. The age limit has also been steadily decreasing. We always need to be careful when we speak of a slippery slope but in the case of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide there is a very real slippery slope.
As a Christian, I have other concerns. I believe that all people are created in God’s image. I believe that God values life. I belief that the goal of life is not to be pain-free. I believe that God uses us longer than we feel useful. I believe that God is God and we are not.
Whether or not you share my Christian beliefs, I think there are real concerns about euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
I wish that Brittany had never had cancer. I wish she never felt that she had to make that decision. But I also hope that the decisions we make as a society are based on more than the emotions we feel in these difficult cases. Either way, I thank God for Bittany Maynard. I thank God that she forced us to talk about life and death.
If you are interested in learning more, I recommend these resources by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.