Compassion & Choices uses tragedy to promote its assisted suicide agenda

 

By Dave Andrusko

Brittany Maynard with her Great Dane, Charlie (Courtesy Dan Diaz)

Brittany Maynard with her Great Dane, Charlie (Courtesy Dan Diaz)

Like most people will, I suspect, I have a multitude of reactions to news that a 29-year-old woman is teaming up with Compassion & Choices to use her own assisted suicide to help convince the state of California to open the door currently closed to assisted suicide. First, the background.

Shortly after she was married, Brittany Maynard began having debilitating headaches. That’s when she learned she had stage 4 glioblastoma, a malignant brain tumor, according to People magazine’s Nicole Weisensee Egan.

As part of the joint campaign with Compassion & Choices (formerly The Hemlock Society), there is now a six-minute online video that includes interviews with Brittany her mother, Debbie Ziegler, and Dan Diaz, her husband.

“In mid-October, Maynard will videotape testimony to be played for California lawmakers and voters at the appropriate time,” Egan writes.

“Right now it’s a choice [assisted suicide] that’s only available to some Americans, which is really unethical,” Maynard told Egan.

Reaction #1. Age-wise, Maynard is exactly half-way between my two oldest daughters. I would never pretend to know what her parents (and her husband) are experiencing, but I do know how devastated our entire family would be if either Emily or Joanna was suffering from what doctors told Maynard is a terminal disease. The prognosis is six months.

Reaction #2. Maynard’s case is what groups like Compassion & Choices live for. A beautiful young woman apparently about to be cut down in the prime of her life. It matters not that such cases—terminal illnesses—are always the opening wedge after which, once the principal is established, the “right” to be “assisted” expands to a whole panoply of reasons none of which are about terminal illnesses.

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As bioethicist Wesley Smith has written, “The most common reasons for committing assisted suicide in Oregon/Washington are not wanting to be a burden, worrying about losing the ability to engage in enjoyable situations, etc. These existential issues are very important and certainly need attention of caregivers–but they are not “last resort” problems, at least as that term is commonly understood.”

The “right” to assisted suicide has metastasized in Europe, as NRL News Today has discussed in dozens and dozens of posts. Here’s Peter Saunders’ suburb overview.

In the Netherlands which legalised assisted suicide and euthanasia in 2002 there has been an increase of 10% to 20% of euthanasia cases per year since 2006 from 1,923 to 4,188. The 2012 figures included 42 with early dementia and 13 with psychiatric conditions.

In addition in 2001 about 5.6% of all deaths in the Netherlands were related to deep-continuous sedation. This rose to 8.2% in 2005 and 12.3% in 2010. A significant proportion of these deaths involve doctors deeply sedating patients and then withholding fluids with the explicit intention that they will die.

Children as young as twelve can already have euthanasia and a 2005 paper in the New England Medical Journal reported on 22 babies with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus who were killed by lethal injection in the Netherlands over a seven year period. It estimated that there actually 15 to 20 newborns being killed in this way per year – despite this still being illegal. The culture and public conscience have changed.

In Belgium, which legalised euthanasia in 2002, there has been a 500% increase in euthanasia deaths over ten years between 2003 and 2012. High profile cases include Mark and Eddy Verbessem, the 45-year-old deaf identical twins, who were euthanised by the Belgian state, after their eyesight began to fail; then there is Nathan/Nancy Verhelst, whose life was ended in front of TV cameras, after a series of botched sex-change operations. His mother said she hated girls, found her child ‘so ugly’ at birth and did not mourn his death. And then there is Ann G, who had anorexia and who opted to have her life ended after being sexually abused by the psychiatrist who was supposed to be treating her for the life-threatening condition.

Reaction #3. The lead to Egan’s story sets the stage and draws the “right” conclusions for the reader in the first two sentences:

For the past 29 years, Brittany Maynard has lived a fearless life – running half marathons, traveling through Southeast Asia for a year and even climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

So, it’s no surprise she is facing her death the same way.

We are told in the next sentence that the campaign is “to fight for expanding death-with-dignity laws nationwide.” She moved to Oregon to take advantage of its law, but “There’s tons of Americans who don’t have time or the ability or finances,” she told Eagan, “and I don’t think that’s right or fair.”

So, this is not about her “right” to assisted suicide, but the absence of that “right” for people who don’t live in the very few states where it is legal to have someone help you kill yourself. And

Reaction #4. Maynard insists that what she is going to do November 1—“end her life with medication prescribed to her by her doctor”–“is NOT suicide.”

“There is not a cell in my body that is suicidal or that wants to die,” she tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview. “I want to live. I wish there was a cure for my disease but there’s not.”

I have no doubt that the family is doing what it thinks is best in helping their daughter commit suicide. Compassion & Choices is just using her in its interminable campaign to make the “right” to assisted suicide available to anyone for any reason, most especially to those “tired” of life. It is a genuinely radical organization.

For example, as Smith notes, Compassion & Choices promotes VSED (“voluntary stop eating and drinking) on its website.

Smith writes, “It has even published a booklet about suicide by starvation for those who are not terminally ill. From the introduction to Voluntary Stop Eating and Drinking (my emphasis):

“Some call us because they feel overwhelmed by the symptoms of chronic and progressive illnesses that fill their days with misery and suffering. There are also those who may not be seriously ill but are simply ‘done.’ After eight or nine decades of life, they want information about ways to gently slip away in a peaceful and dignified manner.”

Egan mentions none of this in her story. That would require going beyond her bland description of Compassion & Choices as “an end-of-life choice advocacy organization.”

Maynard’s terrible illness is a great tragedy. It is also tragic that the likes of Compassion & Choices will use our genuine compassion for her and her family to attempt to knock down the protective doors without which the weak and the vulnerable will victimized on a massive scale.