Brittany Maynard and the Trouble With Suicide

Just two months ago, the cover of People magazine was a tribute to late actor Robin Williams, who had just taken his own life. As they put it, Williams, “lost his battle with mental illness.” That they considered his death a tragedy was eminently clear. Fast-forward to the most recent issue, and People has an entirely different take on suicide.

This week’s People features Brittany Maynard, the 29 year-old woman with terminal cancer who captured national attention when she moved to Oregon in order to be able to legally end her life. People’s coverage of her pending suicide is wholly different from its coverage of William’s suicide. The coverage of Maynard includes language like “die in peace” and “heart of a warrior.”

“Maynard is staying focused on what’s important…though that doesn’t mean it’s been easy” they write.

They make it sound like she’s going through a divorce, not planning her own death and using it to campaign for the social acceptance of suicide for the suffering.

Maynard appears on the cover in a silk blouse, with glossy makeup and golden baubles, and the subtitle, “Brittany Maynard photographed exclusively for People October 11, 2014.” In short, People glamorizes Maynard and categorizes her suicide as a “controversial choice,” imbibed with a certain daredevil quality that seems intended to evoke our awe, not our sadness.

But what makes her suicide any different from that of Robin Williams? He faced a terminal diagnosis too, one that involves years of suffering and bodily unraveling, one for which there is no cure. Our society, increasingly steeped in a culture of death, doesn’t really have a good answer to the swelling tide of social acceptance for what the pro-suicide movement like to euphemize as “death with dignity.”

No doubt, we all owe Maynard our compassion. It’s hard to fathom the suffering of a 29 year-old newlywed faced with terminal cancer. As she said to People, “Dan and I have given up our dreams of having a family. My mother is soon to lose her only child. We can all agree that no parent should bury their child.” As a 29 year-old beginning my own family, her story hits especially close to home.

But society’s big mistake is in believing that suicide can be a compassionate or dignified choice. Suicide is suicide. There is nothing that can change that. You can make it legal. You can make it seem less horrible by using needles instead of some rope and a chair or a gun. You can put a beautiful woman on the cover of a celebrity magazine as a spokeswoman. But it’s still suicide, and the reality is that anyone who commits suicide, or even ponders it, is suffering deeply.

Assisted suicide only compounds the tragedy and the inhumanity of taking one’s life because it makes the law and other people complicit. It inverts our human obligation to help each other avoid death as much as possible and instead disincentivizes people to reach out to those who are suffering the most in society, usually the elderly, the disabled, those in chronic pain, or the terminally ill. Legal suicide gives society a giant cop-out for doing its most basic duty: caring for these people. With euthanasia, we can all just turn the other way while they take their own lives.

People magazine should be ashamed for giving a platform to a pro-suicide agenda. They might as well have built the gallows for Robin Williams and every other person who suffers with so little hope that they’d rather take their own life than live just one more day. Brittany Maynard’s suicide will be just as tragic as Robin Williams’ and that of every other person who follows in their path. People can do better than profiting off of death.



59 responses to “Brittany Maynard and the Trouble With Suicide

    1. Have you considered the possibility that Brittany loves her family and doesn’t want to put them through the terrible pain of watching her wither? I have told my daughters that “If my mind goes, I want to go with it”.

      1. I’d honestly never taken a look at this idea from this perspective. But it brings up a very very good point I believe.

        Have you considered the possibility that someone dealing with depression has decided, as you put it, “that {insert anyone’s name here} loves her{his} family and doesn’t want to put them through the terrible pain of watching her{him} wither?” So they commit suicide?

        Whether they are physically abusing themselves through cutting or other methods, or simply just going through personality struggles that affect their entire family, the toll it takes on their family could very well be the same toll someone with terminal cancer could cause their family. I’ve seen it happen too many times.

        Just a thought to consider from the other viewpoint.

      2. Would it be any “less” terrible than the act of watching her die at her own hand? A death is a death, and mourning is mourning. Dare I say, it’s Britney’s own ego that doesn’t want her family to see her in that condition.

  1. I believe that there is a difference between “suicide” in the traditional sense and “euthanasia” in what Ms. Maynard is going through. Robin Williams, and millions of others, suffered through a mental health condition in which his mind (the interface between himself and the world around him) told him on a continuous basis that life was not worth living. Like many people with severe depression, he probably saw his sadness being infected to others. When he did what he did, he did it to end a suffering that was all in his mind.

    On the other hand, Ms. Maynard is doing what she is doing to end a suffering that is in her body and that will ravage her body but not her mind. In the last weeks of her condition, she will be confined to intolerable suffering, a suffering that no amount of drugs will relieve because there is a saturation point for pain relief. There is no cure for her. She will go through this without exception.

    So what we have is a man whose condition was treatable, albeit probably not curable either. A man who was in perfect physical health, to the best of our knowledge. He wasn’t going to die from his sadness any time soon. With proper care and medication, he could continue to be as productive and engaged as he always had been, like so many people with depression can be.

    And we have a woman whose condition is not treatable nor curable. She will die in a manner most horrid, one I would reserve for animals who don’t know better if I had the power to do so. Instead, she is choosing to die with dignity as the thinking, reasoning human being that she is. She’s gone through the steps toward this decision that have been backed by ethicists the world over.

    As for making society complicit? We are just as, if not more, complicit in the millions of suicides in this country (and others) because we continue to ignore mental health problems as a national tragedy. According to different organizations and institutions, twice as many people die from suicide than homicide, yet we don’t seem to be outraged about it. You sure don’t.

    Instead of the outrage over Ms. Maynard’s rational, thought-out, planned, discussed, agreed upon ending of her life in order to avoid a certain misery that comes to people with her condition, we should be outraged that people who have the ability to be treated and become productive members of society are ignored by us and our government and given no out of their mental health condition other than “some rope and a chair or a gun.”

      1. @Arlie Gordon, until you have been in that situation of perpetual hopelessness and despair, complicated by such a devastating diagnosis, you will never truly understand what these people are going through. Clinical depression is an all consuming condition and if/until you receive treatment for it (if it works) you live with the constant feeling of helplessness and low self worth. If the condition is not too severe, you can sometimes muddle through your days……until things get overwhelming. In short, what goes through the mind of a severely depressed person is the desire for the feelings to just STOP. Those of us who have been there look at the deaths of people such as Robin Williams with a feeling of “there but for the grace of God, go I”. It’s not semantics….these are real people with real lives…..lives that at some point have become unbearable for one reason or another. If semantics are so important to you, try looking up the word….COMPASSION….you could use some.

    1. Actually, Robin Williams had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, which is a physical condition, that to paraphrase you, “There is no cure for her (him). She (he) will go through this without exception.” Yes, he suffered from mental illness for years, and without a doubt that played into his decision to die. But the diagnosis of Parkinson’s is what put him over the edge. In this instance, there really is no difference between “suicide” and “euthanasia.”

    2. Reuben Gaines, You said it perfectly. Thanks. (First comment). This article is more christian drivel. Just because your stupid holy book see’s suicide as self or assisted murder, Doesn’t make it so. Some of us can think for ourselves. Suicide is rarely the right choice, but its a persons choice plain and simple. It is more evil to take that choice away by law. Allowing more suffering in this sad world. Suicide is a human right!

  2. Talk about apples and oranges.
    While depression is a horrible thing, it is not a terminal disease. Many people live long and at least partly happy lives with depression. Some even get over the worst of it and eventually live fairly normal lives. The kind of cancer Brittany had, assuming her Dr.’s are correct, is terminal. She is going to die. That is what terminal means in this context. The only question is when…and how much suffering she has to go through on the way to the end.
    For her to wish to end her life somewhat early surely seems like a reasonable choice. Who wants to suffer on the way to the end? This is a choice for her to make with her loved ones. I can’t imagine why someone like you would have any reason to disagree let alone criticize that decision. Shame on you for thinking you know better.
    Live and let live…there is a lot of truth in that line.

    PS-is this a God thing? Are you saying what you do because of your interpretation of your religion? Just wondering.

    1. “She is going to die.”

      Everyone is going to die. The difference here is that she’s taking not just her life but also the hope that her family has for her to live. I’m sure everyone in her family is clinging on to some chance that there could be a medical miracle. Suicide will always be a selfish thing to do.

    2. Why would she tell the world about this? I think she wants someone to stop her. There are no 100%’s in medicine; she could still live a long time if she finds the right doctor to treat her. Nobody knows for sure, they can only make educated guesses.
      But for you to say ‘Live and let live’ after this person made her intentions public is crazy.
      You ask, ‘Is it a God-thing?’.. of course that is one aspect that a Christian can’t overlook. But it’s also a selfish decision. She has a family and a new husband who would certainly want her to stick around as long as possible.

  3. To Ernest and Rueben,

    Robin Williams was also diagnosed with a terminal disease, Parkinson’s. When you start to compare, you are also comparing people’s suffering, and in context if you are allowing her to make a choice based on suffering, then shouldn’t everyone be allowed to make a choice based on suffering.? Have either of you lived with depression? Have either of you lived with Parkinson’s?

    The point isn’t about whose disease is worse or more traumatizing because Brain Cancer, Depression, and Parkinson’s all have their physical, emotional, and mental battles, but about the value of human life and the media putting Brittany on a pedestal for taking her own life based on her circumstances.

    No one wants to suffer, whether it be through death or life’s challenges. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I wish my life would be over based on things that I have had to walk through, but then I remember God’s grace and his hand on my life. I think this sets a precedent for people to look at their own lives and wonder when it’s ok to give up based on circumstances whether physical, emotional, or mental.

    I also wouldn’t compare mental suffering to physical suffering- they are both equally terrible, so I think it’s unfair for you to ask someone with a mental disease to continue on much further than with someone with a physical bodily disease. That is called a mental health stigma, which is a huge problem in this country.

  4. I think Ashley E. McGuire has no idea what she is talking about. Robin Williams was tragic and depression is an illness that can be managed to some extent.TERMINAL CANCER CAN’T. and the fact Ashley don’t know they difference is sad. Why is it we are kinder to out pets than too ourselves why does she feel this beautiful child should not be aloud to decide to end her life before she has to suffer. Ashley E. McGuire thinks she should have to suffer, well shame on Ashley and really who give the right to even comment on this?????????????

  5. It is a shame that our society glorifies death. The death of the unborn and death by suicide. How can we say as a society that fighting cancer is courageous and that suicide is courageous. They are mutually exclusive. Suicide is not courageous. It is horrible that this woman does not value her life.

    I truly hope she is ready to meet her maker, because I am sure he will be upset that she is throwing away the gift of life he gave her and propagandizing for an organization that supports suicide under any circumstances.

  6. Robin Williams had Parkinson’s. His disease was terminal. It was not immediately terminal, but terminal none the less. He decided when he would die. It is no different.
    Truth be told we are all terminal. We will all die. Should we all be able to choose when and have the medical community and those around us assist?
    When we no longer value life, we will not put limitations on killing.

  7. Robin Williams was bipolar. Big difference from just being depressed. He also was just diagnosed with Parkinson disease. Being bipolar myself and medicated; I don’t think I would be able to handle Parkinson’s on top of my bipolar disorder, and mine is fairly controlled via meds. It’s never fully under control and the older you get the worse it gets and the meds you have to take to try to control it are horrible. Comparing terminal cancer and bipolar disorder is like comparing apples to oranges. With cancer it is the disease that kills you. With bipolar disorder and depression it is your brain trying to kill you on a fairly regular basis.

  8. My mom had a good friend she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, with no cure or any kind of treatment twice. The first time she was told she had about a year. The second time she was given even less time. That was five years ago she is still alive she is still living a normal life for the most part. (she has to get check ups to make sure she doesn’t have it still.) She chose not to end her life and that point and has been able to have these years with her kids. She could have taken a different way and moved and ended it all right there but she didn’t. If she had she would have never seen her daughter graduate. Doctors get things wrong you can’t believe them all the time and you should not end your life because of what they tell you.

  9. Apparently at least two of you missed the fact that Williams had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He was not “just depressed but perfectly healthy”.

    My issue with the assisted suicide thing is that you must pick a date in advance. I would not want to take a moment away from my time with my family that I am able to speak to them, listen to them, tell them I love them. How can you say “Yeah, I think by the first of the year I’ll be sick enough to want to end it.”? She may feel good on that day. It may be a day when she could actually go to lunch with her Mom and make one more memory for the woman who is about to lose her only child.

    We tell people contemplating suicide – and two of the above responses reflect this – that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. In the case of debilitating or deadly illness, it’s more a case of jumping from a halfway point straight to the end. While you may be skipping alot of pain, you are also skipping alot of life in order to get to ……. well, that depends on your personal belief system but the fact remains, you’re throwing out the good with the bad.

    Believing in freedom of choice doesn’t mean believing in turning a blind eye when you believe that a decision made by another is a mistake. After all, if you can talk someone contemplating suicide out of following through, it’s safe to assume they didn’t really want to commit suicide after all, isn’t it?

  10. Robin Williams had an incurable disease: He had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and was scared about what it would do to him in the future. I still think he could have dealt with the depression and Parkinson’s with medication. I have an aunt who suffered from Parkinson’s. She lived to be 83. He could have had many good years left.

    But I kind of think if I were in intolerable pain from terminable cancer, I’d wish someone would just push the plunger on the needle and give me an overdose of morphine, too.

  11. i say each people should do whatever they want to do.
    you all dont know the ugly pain they go threw. suffering is not living a life some of us just got to live your own life and be happy for your good health and but out GOD BLESS YOU ALL. LIVE AND LET LIVE

  12. Life is sacred, it is a gift, and every day has something for us, and something we can give to others. There is always hope, doctors do not know how long a person has to live or how much suffering we will endure. New treatments become available.
    It looks to me as though the fear of the unknown has led Brittany to make this sad decision. I would hope if she was my daughter or friend that I could ease her distress by promising to be there with her to the very end. To be there for her through it all, that she does not have to go through this alone.
    Nobody looks forward to pain or suffering, but perhaps suffering can serve a purpose. James says – Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds because you know the testing of your faith builds perseverance and perseverance must finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Suffering is like fire that purifies and strengthens us. A thought to end with and something to consider: Not unlike labor pains that bring about pure joy and new life, perhaps suffering prepares us for life beyond this world.

  13. Who’s to say our human obligation is ‘…to help each other avoid death as much as possible?’
    I don’t believe anybody is qualified to make such assertions.

    In any case, I read the article and promptly felt compelled to seek a little background info on the author as there appears to be a religious agenda. She identifies as a Roman Catholic, so you’ll have to excuse me (and perhaps others) if I give little thought to the opinions of somebody who would be conflicted by their faith.

  14. Sorry, I don’t think you can have it both ways. The “noble” terminal cancer patient who struggles through hospice with their family and friends watching as the person’s pain slowly ends and their life is over naturally….versus the “noble” terminal cancer patient who commits suicide before the going gets rough. Suicide is never noble. It’s another downward slide on the slippery slope of humanism.

  15. Gentlemen,

    It is apparent that you have never had to deal with depression personally. While I by no means condone suicide I must tell you that severe depression is much more than just having a few bad or sad days. It can take its toll on your mind, emotions and even causes physical pain. I feel comfortable saying that depression is one of the most complicated and agonizing diseases on earth. I agree that it is critical that we as a nation do more to help people who have mental illness.

    1. Who says it has to be either way? The “nobility” of fighting cancer tooth and nail while you waste away in front of your loved ones is a myth. Are people less noble if they succumb quickly as opposed to a long sad downward spiral? The nobility of the fight is a human creation. Your desire to fight regardless of your quality of life (for you and those around you) is overrated and largely out of your control.

      According to you, the amount of punishment you take to hang on as long as you can is your measure of someone as a human being. That’s ridiculous.

      More to the point, anyone who lacks the compassion to understand that not everyone sees and feels the same has no idea how off base they are when they claim the right thing to do is what they would personally do. You, OBVIOUSLY, know nothing about anything that goes on outside your own brain. If you did, you wouldn’t pass judgement, either on the free will of Brittnay and her family or anyone who has faced the oppressive gray shroud that dogs certain depressed or bi-polar people day after day, month after month. That depression has little to do with looking at someone’s life and asking, “What do you have to complain about?”. Here’s the mind bender, the depressed often KNOW they hav nothing to “complain about”.

      I know. I’ve been there. I’ve watched it in my family. I consider myself fortunate I’ve never quite gotten “there”. I also know this … it has nothing to do with my superiority as person, as apparently, some folks feel about themselves for continuing to live. I suppose that just a bad byproduct of humans whose survival instinct are so strong they lack compassion for others and their struggles.

  16. Don’t we put our pets down when they have reached beyond the point of rescue? Why should we suffer needlessly when there is a better option available.

  17. Robin Williams was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, thus the return of his depression. We have no idea whether he was clinically depressed at the time or not. I would suppose anyone just given a Parkinson’s diagnosis would be depressed to some degree. My father was diagnosed 2 weeks ago and he certainly is, his mood changes daily. Shame on you Ernest for assuming that a terminally ill person is only living to die, living to suffer. They can live to bring joy, love, knowledge, tenderness to all those they know and meet. Many people are born with terminal illnesses and do just that for their entire lives. Everyday, everyone, can live a life with purpose, even if it’s the last day.

  18. As a person who has suffered from depression, or mental illness if you will, for most of my life (I am 52) one can really only speak of it and understand it if they’ve gone through it or are living it daily. I am on so much medication that I truly don’t know how I function. Yet I get up every day, go to my job and do it, some days better than others, and I shuffle through life, because I have to in order to keep a roof over my head. I have contemplated suicide many, many times through the years, because I feel like I just exist, I don’t live. My medication costs have skyrocketed with all the new high deductible plans, which causes me more stress, worry, and depression. But that is not what caused Robin Williams to take his life. He could have afforded the best mental health care and medication that money could buy. But that doesn’t help most of the time, and he struggled with it for years. It is so hard to live and work with people who “don’t get it.” There is still a huge stigma around anyone who suffers from a mental illness. There are few doctors and facilities to help us, and they are costly and hard to get in to. Imagine forcing yourself out of bed every day because that’s what you have to do, go to work, be “fine”, put on your happy face, take care of a family, or live alone, as I do now. I have few friends, not because I’m not friendly, but because they’ve all tried to help and have given up and moved on to other people who are less of a drag. I’ve heard so many people say, “they should have talked to someone, made a contract with a friend or family member, anything but take their own life.” Again, if you haven’t lived it, you don’t understand it. All I know is that I have to suffer through the days, weeks, years, probably for the rest of my life, taking a handful of pills to try to help keep me normal, but really cause me to have no feelings at all, and where’s the living in that? There is none. I hear about people committing suicide all the time, and I get it. I know exactly how they feel. Everyone has different problems, but mental illness is mental illness. I just hope I can keep on holding on, for the sake of my kids and family, but obviously, many try and fail, so we’ll see how it goes. RIP Robin Williams and all those before me, I hope your minds are free now.

  19. And what, exactly, is “Life” to you? “Life” is simply “The fact that my bodily functions are still sort-of continuing to happen?” Where should we draw the line, then, if people aren’t allowed to die with dignity when there is no quality of life left? Should she be forced to keep her alive on a respirator, giving her continual EKG shocks until her body disintegrates to the point that it can’t be “Saved?” Death is an individual choice..and you certainly are not in any position to judge. Condeming this woman for choosing to end her life rather than soldier on in increasing misery in the face of a losing battle is beyond shameful for you.

  20. It does make you stop and think. Robin Williams had a terminal illness, Parkinson’s, and Brittney Maynard has a terminal illness, cancer. They both are choosing to end their life. Why is one a tragedy and one an act of heroism? As was said, suicide is suicide. It’s the cowards way out either way.

  21. We are ALL going to die. None of us are getting out alive. When abortion is no longer legal and the unborn children who DON’T choose to die have an advocate fighting for their right to live, then I will try to find a reason that an adult human can’t make a choice about THEIR right to live or die in and with dignity.

    Everyone needs to get off their soapbox and stop talking about how horrible it is that a human living in terminal pain with knowledge they cannot overcome a wasting disease that slowly erodes their body and quality of life.

  22. The term that bothers me in the whole assisted suicide argument is “Death with dignity.” Does that mean that choosing to live your last days through the horrors of cancer, or any other dread disease, is undignified? Why is killing yourself “dignified” and “courageous” but choosing to fight with everything you have until the end not classified the same way? I think People magazine, and all of America who think like this, have it tragically backwards.

  23. In my own humble opinion the difference in how People Magazine chose to present the articles, Robin Williams was a mega-star. Therefore, his death is a tragedy. Brittany Maynard’s only claim to fame is that she is legally killing herself while she is still young, attractive and in what appears to be good health.

    I don’t understand how anyone can presume to know when another person should die. Why is it our “human obligation to help each other avoid death as much as possible?” I do not know how long or how much another person could or should endure their own form of suffering and neither does anyone else. I also do not know how they are suffering. Why should anyone be forced to suffer whether it be from mental illness, physical illness, or age-related issues we now accept as normal aging? Through better medicine, diet, exercise, safety codes and lifestyle changes people are living much longer than they did years ago. That’s great if you are healthy – not so much if you aren’t.

  24. I have a problem with this take on things. I’ve suffered with depression and at the moment, I win and I’m fine. My daughter is also struggling at the moment (over a breakup with a boy). As my doctor put it best, “why would you think a permanent solution to a temporary problem is the best choice?” If you follow that philosophy, and I do, I always, always have realized even at my lowest that “this too shall pass.” Yes, life has it’s ups and it’s downs and sometimes the downs are nearly more than we humans feel we can endure, but we are resilient and we do. Now, cancer – watched my dad fight the horrible disease, weigh about 80 pounds at his death, lose his dignity because he didn’t have the strength to pick his own body up or take care of himself and he shouldn’t have a choice for a permanent solution to a permanent problem? Every single day a human has to make a horrible choice to let the animals they love go and “not let them suffer” and that is okay right? It’s just a dumb animal. But our humans, our family, the love of our life — we’d rather make them suffer than let them have a choice. Glamorize suicide? Really? It’s a choice to go peacefully and with dignity and maybe, just maybe not put your family through the tears they will face as they watch you helpless and suffering. But that’s only okay for my dogs. I’m not supposed to hope that same compassion. Wake up. Maybe if you were given a death sentence, you’d have a different look at things. Each human should be treated just as humane as we treat our pets. And, the nice thing in the case of humans — we can speak for ourselves and say what we want. Our pets don’t really get that option and we hope we’re doing the right thing because we love them.

  25. The article compares Robin Williams to Brittany’s choice and they couldn’t be more opposite. Robin Williams had a CHOICE of getting help and healing, while Brittany will die an unpleasant death. She doesn’t want to deal with the pain of dying and I agree with her because why when you don’t have to? She unlike Robin doesn’t have a choice of dying, she is going to die. Leave the girl alone I admire her courage and I would want to go the way she describes what her wishes are. Everyone keeps calling it suicide but its not its a medically assisted death – she is choosing to die on her terms. Go girl!

  26. I have no issues with this woman taking her life. She has chosen not to subject herself to the agonizing pain she will go through. We let our animals end their suffering, I see this as no different. It’s a compassionate move, not a selfish one, which suicide so often is. I’m a conservative, but I do not see this as suicide for the sake of it or out of any despair. This woman wants to live, she’d give anything for a cure, but she should be able to end her life with dignity and not live it out so some of you will feel better about your so-called moral choices. I also see no problem with People magazine talking about it either, just as they did with Robin Williams. Think ya’ll missed the boat on this one, but we can all respectfully disagree.

  27. I think that what’s missing from ALL of these news reports AND the responses to them is: “what does it mean to be “Human?” It is without doubt that we have the arrogance to proclaim ourselves as the most intelligent species on the planet. Notwithstanding the evidence that this may not be true, I don’t think that “intelligence” is a defining factor of “humanness.” So, what is? What I think of when trying to identify humanness is empathy and compassion: the ability to sense emotions in others and to value others. This is NOT something that ALL members of Homo Sapiens are capable of experiencing. As a result, I think that not all members of Homo Sapiens are actually members of the “Human Race.” Every Homo Sapiens who can and has communicated with others recognizes some word that identifies the “term” COMPASSION. We all can pretend to feel this emotion, and the survival of folks who can’t actually “feel” this emotion depends on their ability to act as if they do. Here’s a little clue on how to identify the non-humans: when they recognize that someone is experiencing pain (either emotional OR physical) they SAY something like “I feel your pain and hope that you can get over it.” Someone who is ACTUALLY Human will NOT have to actually say anything like that because their ACTIONS will SHOW that they care and empathize. Having delved (very briefly) into “humanness”, I have to say that one other area where we can actually LOSE our humanity is when we allow some outside force to subvert our natural inclination to care and show caring. For example, and the one that seems most prevalent in the diatribes above, when “religion” tells us what to think, say, and do, AND that “religious” response opposes what we actually “feel”, it is then that we give up a part of our humanity when we take action to support “religion” and in so doing cause further pain to those already suffering. Now, one clue to “religion” bringing this action about seems to be the ability to proudly proclaim that you know far better than anyone else what THEY should do in response to the stressors in their life. This final “clue” is so apparent in every judgement in the responses above that I’m beginning to wonder how many “humans” the Homo Sapiens race has left. If you cannot imagine the pain and suffering that someone must endure in the final days of their life when they’ve been afflicted with terminal brain cancer, perhaps you should be forced to watch someone go through that agony for yourselves. I’ve been there. I’ve seen that pain. I’ve seen someone suffer through the final stages of cancer to the point that they were no longer even functional beings, but instead were solely focused on the pain, ending the pain. And you, you judgmental religionists, can only see that because you see it as “wrong” for someone to avoid that final agony, you lash out against them (in this case Brittany Maynard) and tell them (her) that you know what’s best for her than she ever will. I’m reminded of a phrase I read in a book once, that experiencing pain is a necessary first step in obtaining a soul, and that we could assure that every Homo Sapiens gains a soul, but that the level of pain we would have to afflict on some is so great that we would be placing our own soul in jeopardy when we inflict that pain on them. And now a final question for all of us: when you seek to place your judgement onto another, to force them to live by your beliefs, can you actually say that you are still human?

  28. I think people should mind their own business and the true sickness is in those who try to wield the law to force others to comply with their personal beliefs.

  29. It seems pretty clear to me the author has neither experienced or dealt with someone with mental illness. She has clearly also not had to deal with someone close to them who has a cancer diagnosis. I have had the unfortunate privilege to have lived through both. I won’t touch on how mental illness has affected my life and those around me. I will just stick with cancer for this comment.

    Cancer is one of the worst things in the world. It destroys people, it destroys families, and it is one of the most expensive drains on our healthcare resources. By 2020, cancer treatment costs could reach up to $158 billion. It is estimated that there will be well over 10,000 new diagnoses of cancer just in 2014.
    As of January of this year, there were more than 14 million people currently suffering cancer. For a rough estimate, that is roughly $11,200 for each person per year. And for that lofty price tag, you get to watch your body desert you. You get to go through treatment that, even with improvements in medical technology, could kill you faster than the disease itself. You get to be gradually isolated from the world because you are too exhausted from the disease and treatment to go out, and friends and even loved ones start to distance themselves because it is so hard to see someone slowly waste away. You may lose the ability to walk. You may get to lose brain function and the ability to remember what you said even five minutes ago. You may get to enjoy strange mood swings and hallucinations. And there are thousands of other unimagined discomforts waiting for you as well.
    So why, knowing it probably would not even help, would someone willingly go through this? Why start her new family off with a huge amount of expense and the last memories being a desiccated body that is practically a skeleton in a hospital or hospice bed and the person may not even know who is around them in the last days?
    People have no problem putting a beloved pet down when the suffering is too great, but for some reason people think it is reasonable to hook a person up to a bunch of machines and ivs and pump them full of painful and mind altering drugs to force them to prolong well beyond any point of humanity. Why is it ok for an animal to die with some scrap of peace and dignity but humans must suffer all manner of pain and indignity before they go?
    I have lost five very close people to cancer, the first my cousin when I was ten and he was thirteen. I have seen cancer chew up and spit out four vibrant human beings over a long and painful process. These were all good people who helped others and made the world a better place by being here. In repayment, their bodies and even sometimes their minds were turned against them and they were in a living shell of hell on earth.
    If you really valued life, Ashley, you would realize that forcing people to go through this just so we can take death as serious as we should is hurtful, selfish, and utterly inhumane. I can’t believe, if you had ever dealt with someone who has cancer, you would force them to prolong things because of some ephemeral ideal. Perhaps instead of a knee jerk reaction to what you see as glorifying death by People magazine, you should do some research, maybe go visit a cancer treatment center, actually experience the pain and horror that is cancer. Then you will see that they were not trying to celebrate death, but rather celebrating a person having control of their life and what good could still be had. I have done the research, as you can see by the links I have shared. More importantly, I have lived this horror. I pray you never have to, but if you do, I hope you can come down off your high horse to care about the person suffering in a manner that helps them. Lewis Black commented about cancer in his book “Me of Little Faith”. He said you do everything you can, and it still won’t be enough. So, next time you want to moralize and pass judgement, walk in another person’s shoes first and maybe learn something.

  30. If I find out I’m terminally ill, I don’t want to suddenly become someone’s most basic duty. I would prefer to handle it myself.

    I have told my children over and over that I’m not planning to suffer endlessly as I’ve seen friends and relatives do. For what? What sort of memories will I be making if my whole life is endless pain and suffering? Let them remember me the way I was. And let them say, she was brave enough to say “I will not suffer needlessly”.

    If you think I’m a chicken or a cop-out, live however you want. But don’t force your views on me. Abortion is legal and I would never have had one because I think it’s wrong. Let assisted suicide be legal and don’t do it if you think it’s wrong. And there’s no hypocrisy here: the baby isn’t committing suicide — the mother is committing murder.

  31. I agreed with you up until the point that you said that we have a moral obligation to help each other avoid death as much as possible. We are contemplating assisted suicide as a nation because we have depersonalized death and dying through our drive to escape it. What we have created is medical ways to technically stay alive, but in states that simply prolong suffering, separate the dying from their loved ones, and are insanely costly. We need to be asking ourselves about whether we are trying to escape death too much? Just because the technology exists, is it good to use it?

    This question is quite different, however, from suicide. Certainly the line blurs when it comes to pain relief. Often pain relievers not only decrease pain but also hasten death. Thus the question of whether the morphine killed them or not becomes a little ambiguous.

    The issue is not that that we have a moral obligation to avoid death at all costs. The issue is that just as we must abandon our fear of death when we are finally on our last legs, we also have to abandon our fear of suffering. Love is expressed in suffering together with your dying loved one, affirming the value of their life, and putting aside your discomfort about it.

    The big problem we have right now is that we think physical suffering is worse than mental suffering. Once we realize the opposite is true and how prescription medication doesn’t necessarily cure mental illness but rather stifles it with a list of negative side effects, we may find ourselves supporting suicide as a choice in any situation.

  32. It’s the glamorizing and desensitizing of suicide that is of concern here. Truthfully, I think people are going to commit suicide as long as there are people and problems. HOWEVER, making it seem like the ONLY resolution for people with serious problems is a problem in and of itself.

    Cancer. Depression.

    Addiction. Divorce. Bullying.

    All these things can lead to someone feeling that suicide is the only way out – but when a 29 year old fully informed adult takes this route and its touted as the next big CHOICE, what happens when a 12 year old decides she doesn’t want to deal with her cancer? or depression? or her parent’s divorce?

    It’s almost making a show of something that ENDS LIFE in a way that children, adolescents and even some young adults cannot process, but may come to see as a VIABLE option for responding to so many of life’s problems, challenges, difficulties, and disease.

    I won’t judge Brittany. Or Robin.
    But the message that comes out of their decision is being glossed over and sensationalized in a somewhat irresponsible manner.

  33. Shame on the author.

    Brittany Maynard is not making a rash decision influenced by mental illness and substance abuse, she is making a decision based on the very unpleasant death that awaits her in the near term.

    As a matter of religious faith, I am opposed to suicide; but having sat at enough besides to see what awaits cancer patients, I support whatever choice a cancer patient makes for themselves.

  34. I struggle with this issue. My religious beliefs tell me suicide is a sin. But, I watched my mother go from being a beautiful lady to a skeleton with loose skin. She had ovarian cancer, which is very difficult to detect until it is too late. She suffered unimaginable pain for four months. Had she decided to end her life sooner to avoid the excruciating pain I would have supported that decision. My Bible tells me God never gives us more than we can bear. Sometimes…that doesn’t seem to be the case.


  36. She has not taken any steps that were offered because the media including People magazine is getting the excitement from counting down to a death rather than helping to inspire and give hope like the other individuals with her cancer that had victory. The media teams have the BEST RESEARCH TEAMS AND KNOW OF THESES VICTORY STORIES. They know the best doctors and the names of the patients. They have received letters and are not going to push to save a life, because this countdown to death is better news for them. It is suicide, no matter how you put it.

  37. Brittany…You shared with the world…including showing us your bedroom where you plan to kill yourself….You brought us to your death and a countdown… so here is my reaction I am entitled to FEEL especially after beating cancer twice and fighting with terminal cancer.

  38. I have total respect for Brittany decision to end her live my late wife died of cancer after 8 months of agony treatments that fail to stop it she always told me she knew her own body better than anyone and she new it was a terminal cancer and that she did not want myself and our children to through watching her suffer and said if there was nothing more they could try to stop it she just wanted to die she past away just 2 weeks later peacefully at home aged 44yr. that was 17yr ago never a day goes by without a thought for her

    my message to her family is the pain you feel at this moment in time hurts so very deeply but as time go by it will get better life has got to go on but for Brittany she is now at peace free from the pain she will be watching over you all for the rest of your lives never more than a thought away from you.

    she will always be remembered by you and loved

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