When I first heard about Brittany Maynard and her plans to end her own life, I thought I knew how I felt about it. After all, God is the giver of life. Who are we to decide when it’s over, no matter how difficult the circumstances? Right?
In January of this year, 29 year-old Brittany was diagnosed with a glioblastoma brain tumor. This kind of cancer is terminal and the end can be agonizing. The treatment itself is arduous and debilitating. Besides, it would only prolong her life by weeks or months.
Here is a description, in Brittany’s own words, of what will happen as the cancer runs it course:
“I could develop potentially morphine-resistant pain and suffer personality changes and verbal, cognitive and motor loss of virtually any kind. Because the rest of my body is young and healthy, I am likely to physically hang on for a long time even though cancer is eating my mind. I probably would have suffered in hospice care for weeks or even months. And my family would have had to watch that.”
“Death with Dignity”
So, Brittany has decided to die on her own terms. She and her husband moved from California to Oregon so she could take advantage of the state’s “Death with Dignity Law.” Based on her residency and her diagnosis, Brittany obtained a prescription for a self-administered medication. If and when she decides to take it, the drug will put her to sleep and then end her life.
Brittany has chosen to spend the time she has remaining with her loved ones, traveling as long as she can, and working as an advocate for “death with dignity.” Brittany, and many other Americans, believes people with a terminal illness should have the right to choose how and when they die, the right to escape terrible suffering or even the fear of terrible suffering.
Brittany has not scheduled a date when she will take the “death pill.” She at least wanted to wait until after her husband’s birthday on October 26. But she plans to take it when the prospect of living becomes harder than the leaving.
Brittany refers to the medication as her “safety net.” If the end of her life gets too difficult to bear, then she knows she will have a way out. Here are a few of her own words:
“I know it’s there when I need it… When my suffering becomes too great, I can say to all those I love, ‘I love you; come be by my side, and come say goodbye as I pass into whatever’s next.’”
If I am completely honest with myself, and you, I would have to admit that given the same set of circumstances I might choose the same path. (Hear me out on this. Read all the way to the end.)
Without God, Without Hope
Yet, even if I were diagnosed tomorrow with glioblastoma, I would never be in Brittany’s exact situation. There’s one big difference. From everything I can tell, Brittany does not include God in her situation. And that makes all the difference for me.
Knowing God, knowing His character, and knowing His power changes everything. God trumps glioblastoma. And for that matter, anything and everything else.
I’m not saying God would miraculously heal me. But He could if He chose to. And I know and trust He would use every moment He allowed me to live. No matter how painful, how terrible, He would have purpose in it. He would use it to bring glory to Himself. And He would be there with me when I needed Him.
I pray I would never dare to take that into my own hands.
The saddest thing about Brittany is not that she has a terminal illness. It’s not that she has no hope left in this life. No, the saddest thing about Brittany Maynard is that apparently she has no hope for eternity.
Without God, there is no hope for this life or the next (Ephesians 2:12). Brittany needs the “eternal encouragement, good hope, and strength” that only Christ can give (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
My prayer for Brittany is that she will find eternal hope in Christ before she passes into “whatever’s next.” I pray that instead of “death with dignity” Brittany Maynard will find life in Jesus.
Update: Brittany Maynard died on November 1, 2014. May God comfort her family and friends and draw them closer to Himself. (CNN story)
Note: For an example of a believer with this same illness and diagnosis, check out Maggie Karner’s story. Maggie compares her choice to depend on God with Brittany’s choice.