On New Year’s Day Brittany Maynard was told she had terminal brain cancer. She started suffering severe headaches shortly after being married a little more than a year before. Tests revealed she had the worst kind of brain tumor. Death would be agonizingly painful and the cancer would ravage her body. Chemotherapy and radiation may slow it down, but would be equally debilitating and not cure her.
Brittany and her husband lived in California but decided to move north to Oregon. Oregon has statutes that provide for death with dignity. Brittany says, “I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.” She has planned to die on the first of November. When a doctor on a radio talk show questioned her decision, Maynard replied, “The day is my choice, I have the right to change my mind at anytime, it is my right.”
Some frame this issue as the “right to die.” That is a foolish statement; death is the unavoidable appointment we all will keep. Brittany is not asserting a right to die, she is asserting the right to choose “when” she dies. She is not giving in to a temporary fit of depression, but an accepted desperation as she faces what appears to be an inevitable set of circumstances.
Brittany’s plight stirs human compassion, and her decision has stirred debate. Many have weighed in on the issue representing an array of perspectives. Joni Eareckson-Tada has commented on the issue from a biblical worldview, but some have pointed out that Brittany is not facing a life of disability like Joni; she is dealing with a terminal illness. But what we see juxtaposed here is the secular perspective versus the sacred worldview.
What I find disturbing about Brittany’s decision is that it appears to have been reached without any consideration to what if any role faith may have played in her determination. Her thinking makes perfect sense from a secular viewpoint. Brittany’s faith, if she has one, is not mentioned. Some may say faith is a private affair, but so is the decision to commit suicide. If she did not mind going public about her decision to end her life, it does not seem reasonable she would be reticent to discuss the part faith contributed to the process, unless it made no contribution.
The Scriptures declare, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” Hebrews 9:27. If Brittany’s goal is to end her suffering and to die with dignity she should reconsider her decision. She may be jumping out of an earthly frying pan into an eternal fire.
This past Wednesday, October 29, 2014, Brittany postponed her planned death indefinitely.