The Great Sadness of the Brittany Maynard Story

Oregon’s Brittany Maynard has a very touching, yet tragic, tale to tell about her terminal brain cancer and her plans to take her own life—something she will do next month in her own bed as she is surrounded by her immediate family. 

She wants to “pass in peace,” as she says in a video in which she discusses her cancer. She will do this on November 1 with her husband, mother, and stepfather by her side.

Yet there is something heartbreakingly askew in this story. Quite possibly it is the audacious manner in which her story came to prominence. The confluence of media efforts with the work of the nation’s number one advocacy group for “death with dignity” and assisted suicide, Compassion & Choices, truly smacks of something wicked. 

Those groups and media that have chosen to use Brittany’s story to promote the agenda of euthanasia advocates are creating a flawed façade as they set about deceiving the public regarding the ethics—or lack thereof—inherent in exploiting the story of anyone who has decided to commit suicide, no matter what the reason. As we know, the act of suicide is a grievous offense against God. In addition, according to Church doctrine, “If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.” This is exactly what these groups do.

Wesley Smith addresses the media frenzy, telling us powerfully, “Media know they are being played. But, if it bleeds, it leads! By breathlessly pushing the Maynard story, the media are pushing suicide.”

Americans who become aware of Brittany’s case because of these efforts are going to be led down a false path that depicts suicide as a good thing and suffering as useless. You would be hard-pressed to find a single mention about why one needs to give true Christlike compassion to the dying and why nobody is ever really in charge of one’s own life.

Bioethicist Arthur Caplan pointed out that, because Brittany is a young, vivacious, 29-year-old woman who is being portrayed as a heroine, 

a whole new generation is now looking at Brittany and wondering why their state does not permit physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to the dying. Brittany is having and will have a big impact on the movement to get measures before voters or legislators.

She may not be bringing any new arguments into the controversy, but she is bringing a whole new crowd of concerned younger people into the discussion. Those who have followed the elimination of laws against homosexuality and homosexual marriage know what that means. Brittany is going to leave behind a very big legacy.

Further proof of the power of the Maynard message is this statement from an NBC News article: “She knows her story has fueled a global dialogue about her choice and about the issue. She knows some people do not support her selected path. She is using her precious, remaining days to keep that conversation alive.”

And that’s the point, isn’t it? This beautiful woman has chosen to die on November 1. She will take her own life with pills she legally acquired in her home state of Oregon. Others will have facilitated her death and even pressed for it by various methods and self-interests. She argues that she is in complete control of the situation and walks her chosen path with assistance—but many of those who are helping are also capitalizing on her tragic story. Apparently nobody is interested in guiding Brittany away from her tragic path.

After all the fanfare is over and the manipulation of Maynard’s situation in order to advance the culture of death has waned, what will be left? 

How tragic this story is; how needlessly sad it is. 

Please pray that, in these final days, Maynard finds Christ, reaches out for His caring hand, and learns that true compassion leads to sharing another’s pain rather than providing the means to take the life of one who is suffering.