Another indication that our society doesn’t see the value in every stage of life is the increasingly popular idea of assisted suicide. This isn’t a new push of course, as we’re all aware of Jack Kevorkian and what was his controversial campaign to normalize a twisted version of end-of-life compassion. The well-publicized case of Brittany Maynard, a beautiful, young, terminally ill woman who took her own life by this route in November 2014, placed the subject back into the national dialogue. She shared her heartbreaking story of a diagnosis which concluded her life would end much sooner than expected, and that life would be a very painful one with increasingly limited function.
During the time that Brittany’s story was receiving much media attention, two other stories caught the attention of me and many others. Lauren Hill, a 19 year old college student, and Kara Tippetts, a young wife and mother, had both received terminal diagnoses. Their final days included a celebration of life and sharing of a spirit of self-determination, faith, and the desire to encourage others in the midst of the darkest moments of life anyone might ever experience. On March 22, Kara Tippetts, who had written a letter to Brittany Maynard encouraging her to not end her life, died from breast cancer. Then on April 10, Lauren Hill, whose story and advocacy had helped to raise more than $1 million for cancer research, passed away from brain cancer. Each of these lives possessed individual beauty, and all were surrounded by others who had deep love for them. Yet, the push to expand the legalization of assisted suicide continues.
Debra J. Saunders’ excellent column at Townhall, “Assisted Suicide — It’s Civil Rights for the Affluent”, recently discussed new legislation in California. Senate Bill No. 128 is known as the End of Life Option Act, because the term “suicide” is apparently of the too negative and selfish variety. As she states in observing a hearing on the legislation:
The hearing room was filled with supporters wearing yellow Compassion & Choices T-shirts. Many talked about their determination to end their lives on their own terms. I often am struck by proponents’ — how can I put this? — affluence, assurance and sense of entitlement. SB 128 is a bill designed to make suicide more available, more palatable and friendlier.
Gov. Jerry Brown spent time with Mother Teresa in Kolkata. His office won’t say whether he’d sign or veto an assisted-suicide bill. He knows what he should do. True compassion engenders striving to cure illness, relieve pain and offer warmth to those who are suffering. That is dignity.
We completely disregard and dismiss the true meaning of compassion. Many of us cannot relate to being told our lives will be cut short by an illness set to rob us of an expected future, but the majority of us can relate to having someone close to us struggling with and perhaps succumbing to such a thing. We understand the pain, at least from an observer’s point-of-view, and should not be quick to throw support behind ending someone’s life by way of suicide before its ordained conclusion.
Kara Tippetts, in her powerful letter to Brittany Maynard, said the following:
In your choosing your own death, you are robbing those that love you with the such tenderness, the opportunity of meeting you in your last moments and extending you love in your last breaths.
As I sat on the bed of my young daughter praying for you, I wondered over the impossibility of understanding that one day the story of my young daughter will be made beautiful in her living because she witnessed my dying.
That last kiss, that last warm touch, that last breath, matters — but it was never intended for us to decide when that last breath is breathed.
I am again struck by the deep compassion, encouragement, and truth those words represent as shared from one sufferer to another. It is a strong reminder to those of us on this side of healthy – however long that may be – to continue being advocates for life, whether that life is new and in the womb, or terminal and in a hospital bed. California’s legislation is another step down a path we aren’t meant to travel. It seeks to allow others to determine worth, and is devoid of true dignity.