Brittany Maynard is a lovely 29-year-old wife and daughter who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She has announced her decision to commit suicide on November 1, and she plans take her life with drugs prescribed by a doctor.
However, I plead with Brittany not to take her life.
Right now, she is vulnerable and the choice to end her life is like a teenager’s suicide: just as tragic, just as avoidable. Suicide has grown to epidemic proportions in the United States, surpassing auto accidents as the No. 1 cause of injury-related deaths and taking the lives of an astonishing 40,000 people each year.
What does this say about our society? The debate isn’t about whether assisted suicide might spiral out of control with legalization because every suicide, even one, kills a little something in each of us. “Each man’s death diminishes me,” wrote poet John Donne. “Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
Other areas of the world struggle with this tragic epidemic. Belgium has the very dubious distinction of becoming the first country to approve euthanasia for children. Supposedly children may now request to be given a lethal injection, but — and this is truly bizarre –they must first show parental consent. We are witnessing the death of civilization.
“This is the horrific logic of euthanasia,” wrote Wesley Smith, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. “Once killing is accepted as an answer to human difficulty and suffering, the power of sheer logic dictates that there is no bottom.” One-third of euthanasia deaths in Belgium are not even requested by either patients or their relatives and half go unreported.
Apparently, snuffing out people deemed unworthy of love and life has become the new norm in Belgium and that should alarm everyone.
Dr. Wim Distelmans, president of the Belgium Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission, offers paid tours of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, tours that he claims would be “inspiring.” He has called the excursion a “study trip,” adding that “the Nazis used the term ‘euthanasia’ wrongly.”
South of Belgium in Switzerland, suicide clinics have hosted countless killings as part of their “suicide tourism,” including joint-suicides.
In an ironic twist, the Swiss Constitution recognizes the “dignity” of plants and it outlaws flushing a living goldfish down a toilet.
In Britain, Lady Warnock, a former professor and author, has suggested that old people have a duty to die because they are a drain on resources. Those with dementia, she asserts, are “a burden to their family [and] the state.”
Considering that Switzerland grants human rights to goldfish but not to human persons, I ask Brittany and her family to take a glimpse at the beautiful life of singer, guitarist and recording artist Tony Melendez.
Tony was born without arms and yet he loves life and gives countless people joy. In 1987, he captured the world’s attention when he sang and played guitar with his feet for Pope John Paul II. Tony knows that 90 percent of babies prenatally diagnosed with disabilities are aborted. Thus, he has said, “If we can send someone to jail for picking up a turtle egg in Florida and playing with the nest of turtles, how can we not protect human life?”
What we are seeing today is not some form of compassion. Morphine and other drugs can take away pain. We are witnessing symptoms of a greater illness, one that we try to disguise with the words “compassion” and “mercy.”
My own father, a Navy veteran from World War II, died two years ago at age 87 with four cancers in his body. But he lived his life to the end, greatly helped by morphine and a family who supported and loved him. He died in peace and happiness, so that we may live in peace and happiness. Surrounded by so much care and attention, my father’s natural death by cancer ironically brought even more love into the world.
Craig Turner is a graduate of the English Honors program at the University of Texas and a former journalist who covered Capitol Hill. Since 1990, he has served as director of communications for three Washington, D.C. companies. His writing spans a wide variety of topics and styles, from news and feature stories to business publications. Mr. Turner is author of two books recently published by Saint Benedict Press: “Words of Faith” and “Words of Hope.” See his detailed bio at FGFBooks.com.