Nobody gets out of this world alive; death is the price of admission.
Each day in the US some 6,700 people die and few know the appointed hour or day. Of those only about a hundred choose their own death, and in our society suicide is generally perceived as a shameful act.
As a matter of fact, we seem to do all we can to keep bodies warm far past any reasonable chance of recovery or anything about life that we value.
But Brittany Maynard, 29, is choosing to meet death on her own terms.
On November 1, two days after her husband’s birthday, she will pull apart 100 capsules of secobarbital, dissolve it in water, drink it and die.
She told People Magazine, “I don’t want to die but I am dying. My [cancer] is going to kill me, and it’s a terrible, terrible way to die. So to be able to die with my family with me, to have control over my own mind, which I would stand to lose – to go with dignity is less terrifying.”
She moved to Oregon to access the Death With Dignity Act in place there since 1997.
Her story is heartbreaking as it involves the death of someone so young and vibrant, and yet heroic in that it engenders public discussion of laws and perceptions surrounding end-of-life decisions.
There are no easy answers there.
But to allow, or even more, require that people suffer long, debilitating, painful death when there is no chance of recovery or survival seems inhumane. We don’t treat our dogs as cruelly as that, yet for some reason we assume it must be different with human beings.
Hooked up to feeding tubes and respirators, with needles stuck in limbs and plastic hoses jammed up the nose and down the throat...with death imminent and an immutable fact, families drained of any and all finances, what is the point in that?
It is certainly profitable.
There is that.
I would hope that we would eventually grow in our humanity to where we can value each other over profit, but that will take time. And if I choose to be a guinea pig for research, fine. But I want to make that choice myself.
When Tracy’s husband, Bob was diagnosed with a grade IV Glioblastoma multiforme, the same type as the one in Brittany Maynard’s brain, they chose to fight it. And with Bob’s connections as a medical professional himself, fight it they did, spending about a million dollars in 1985 over 13 extremely difficult months ending in a 4-month coma. Four surgeries, two rounds of chemo, radiation…early on, after the second surgery, Tracy said the Bob she knew never came back out of the operating room.
When the attending team of physicians asked Tracy about her experience after Bob finally passed away, she told them they did a great job, the best they could, but if ever she were to be diagnosed with such a tumor, just to “let her go.”
We both agree that we want no “heroic measures” when our time to shuffle off this mortal coil arrives.
I don’t know myself about choosing to die, as Brittany Maynard has done. As she told People Magazine, “There is not a cell in my body that is suicidal or that wants to die,” she told People Magazine. “I want to live. I wish there was a cure for my disease but there’s not.”
But I do think there is a good case for choosing to go out while still in control of my own mind and body, rather than being sliced and diced, pumped full of chemicals and radiation and finally carted out like a vegetable.
I’ve never been fond of vegetables.