I'm sure by now most of you, if not all of you, have heard about 29 year old Brittany Maynard's plan to die peacefully in her home, surrounded by family, on November 1. (If not, you can go here to see a quick video that basically explains it.) I had shared an article about this a week or so ago on my own Facebook page once I had read about it because honestly, I think this is such a beautiful thing. What I didn't expect was how many people were blatantly against this.
I'm a pretty level headed person, and I feel like I can weigh things impartially when I need to. But for me, I don't understand the argument against assisted suicide at all.
In a lot of cases like Brittany, when a person is diagnosed with a terminal illness, the person diagnosed (as well as friends and family) start going through the different stages of grief. It's reasonable to be scared, angry, depressed, defeated, all of these things and more. And for awhile some of that encourages you to fight back and refuse to just go quietly into the night.
And that is courageous.
What is equally courageous, is to know when to say enough is enough. To face death head on. A human body can only withstand so many treatments, so much abuse, so many chemicals being pumped into our system, and just feeling terrible day in and day out. It's not reasonable to want a person to just keep trying for the sake of trying. To me, the worst thing in the whole world would be to see someone you love so much and care so deeply for just wither away. To suffer until the end. Sure, you can give them pain relief, but what kind of quality of life do they have? That's not life. That's making a person hang on because we don't want to let go and say goodbye.
It's never easy to say goodbye. I don't know anyone who has said goodbye and felt like it was all OK. No way. You love that person, and you don't want them to leave early. You want to grow old with them and let them experience so much more in life. But that's not the cards on the table. The cards on the table is a death sentence. And instead of letting someone dictate how they want to go, we say no and make them suffer.
To me, that's selfish. It's really the ultimate selfish act, isn't it? To say you'd rather a person suffer and deteriorate until they are a shell of their former selves than say goodbye when you can still have a beautiful last memory with them, is selfish.
Then it got me to thinking about people who struggle with mental illness who often give in and commit suicide. Those are never happy stories, but sometimes I feel OK. I feel like, you know what- if life was that bad for them, if they are at peace now, then I'm at peace. I don't like that they are gone, I miss them a lot, and I wish I could have done more to help. But maybe it wouldn't have mattered. Maybe we should look at it like they are at peace, whatever held them back in life has set them free, and they aren't plagued by demons anymore. Mental illness doesn't go away. I suffer from depression and anxiety, and while I can't say I've ever seriously contemplated suicide, I can understand why a person would. And it isn't about any of the rest of us. We try to make it about us by talking them out of it, and telling them all of the great things in life, as if those things never crossed their mind. But maybe it did. Maybe with all of that good, it's not enough for them. I wouldn't want someone to suffer and struggle their entire lives just so I could have them here.
Again, that's totally selfish.
I think there is a real difference between people who do it as a cry for help and people who do it to get it done. Very different, and I think we can all reasonably separate them out. But maybe if people felt more support in life, during the great times and the darkest hours, humanity would all be a little better for it. Maybe if we didn't project our will and wishes onto others, and let them go out the way the want to go out, people wouldn't be so scared to die. And for those with a religious belief on suicide, who is to say God isn't telling them their purpose on Earth is done and it's OK to come home? We don't know that, that would be a very personal thing between that person and God, wouldn't it?
So the moral of the post is that I applaud you, Brittany. I applaud your husband, your family, your friends, and everyone backing you up. You deserve to not suffer, knowing full well what your future with your debilitating condition is going to be and knowing you fought the good fight. You deserve to have everything you want all the way to the end. To be able to really say goodbye to people in a meaningful way is the greatest gift you can give to everyone that will mourn your loss for years to come. And that right there? That's the most selfless thing anyone could ever do.