Blog Post

Death with Dignity: Fact or Fiction?

People issueWhen the terminally ill Brittany Maynard took her life on November 1, her husband, Dan Diaz, took up his wife’s cause to have assisted suicide laws changed in the U.S. and is now pushing for a new law to be introduced in the couple’s home state of California.

According to the article appearing in People Magazine, on the last day of Maynard’s life, she and Dan had a light breakfast and then took the dogs out for a hike.

"She wanted to go and take a hike so we all went and hiked," Diaz, 43, says. "There were eight of us total and the dogs. We went on a trail that she liked and it was a good morning. Then we got back to the house."

Later in the afternoon, Maynard decided it was time, and prepared to take a fatal dose of secobarbital.

"She was surrounded by the people who loved her and her passing was peaceful," he said, adding that further details are "sacred," such as the last words she spoke to him.

Diaz said that within five minutes of swallowing the drugs, his wife fell asleep, and stopped breathing about 30 minutes later.

He has been in mourning for the last few months but is now gearing up to fulfill a promise he made to Brittany to take up her fight for the legalization of assisted suicide in the U.S. Later this month, a new Death with Dignity bill will be introduced in Maynard’s home state of California.

"This was one thing Brittany had asked, that we make this a reality in California. I wanted to keep my promise to her," says Diaz. "You can smile that it happened or be sad that it's over. I choose to smile."

Unfortunately, Brittany Maynard and now her husband Dan have aligned themselves with Compassion & Choices, an organization which emerged in 2005 from a union between The Hemlock Society and Compassion in Dying. Compassion & Choices used Maynard’s decision to move to Oregon in order to end her life legally rather than die a painful death caused by the inoperable cancer in her brain as a way to reinvent the push for assisted suicide in the U.S. Trying to put a new and younger face on the issue, the organization hopes to use her story to garner support among Americans.

terri shiavoNot all has gone according to plan, however. The organization was caught in the act of secretly using the signatures on a sympathy card for Brittany’s family as a means to pad the number of signatures on a petition in support of assisted suicide that they intend to take to lawmakers. As this story reveals, the people who signed the card were never told that their signatures were being added to the petition.

This is not surprising as the purveyors of assisted suicide are often too eager to exploit truth in order to get their way. For instance, they like to tell people that laws against assisted suicide are nothing more than government mandated suffering.

However, according to the Patients’ Rights Council (PRC), this is as ludicrous as saying laws against selling contaminated food amounts to government mandated starvation.

“Laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide are in place to prevent abuse and to protect people from unscrupulous doctors and others. They are not, and never have been, intended to make anyone suffer,” the PRC explains.

But there are safeguards in place to prevent these abuses, proponents argue. The problem is, in all states and countries where assisted suicide is legal, safeguards have been repeatedly ignored. This paper, issued by the U.S. bishops, documents just some of the many abuses that have occurred in the U.S. in spite of strict safeguards.

The same phenomenon has been occurring all over the world. Countries such as the Netherlands have steadily relaxed their safeguards over the years and are now allowing people who are depressed or just don’t want to live anymore to kill themselves. Although safeguards forbid anyone under the age of 12 to be euthanized, protocols have been put in place to allow younger children to be killed.  In Belgium, children of any age can now be euthanized.

Assisted suicide proponents like to say that allowing terminally ill people to end their life can spare them a painful death. However, experts in oncology and pain relief avidly refute these claims.

The bottom line is that physician assisted suicide is only peaceful and happy in the minds of advocates. Just ask Bobby Schindler, who is appearing on EWTN’s Women of Grace this week. His sister, Terri Schiavo, died a painful death by deliberate starvation and dehydration after a Florida hospice was given permission to withdraw her feeding tube in 2005. What kind of mercy is that?

In his landmark encyclical, The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul referred to assisted suicide as being a disturbing perversion of mercy.

“True compassion leads to sharing another's pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear. Moreover, the act of euthanasia appears all the more perverse if it is carried out by those, like relatives, who are supposed to treat a family member with patience and love, or by those, such as doctors, who by virtue of their specific profession are supposed to care for the sick person even in the most painful terminal stages.”

He also issued a stern warning to those – such as doctors and other euthanasia advocates - who are taking it upon themselves to decide who is worthy of life. “The height of arbitrariness and injustice is reached when certain people, such as physicians or legislators, arrogate to themselves the power to decide who ought to live and who ought to die. Once again we find ourselves before the temptation of Eden: to become like God who ‘knows good and evil’ (cf. Gen 3:5). God alone has the power over life and death: ‘It is I who bring both death and life’ (Dt 32:39; cf. 2 Kg 5:7; 1 Sam 2:6).”

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