Blog Post – A Young Woman is Dead
Twenty-nine year old Brittany Maynard moved to Oregon for the express purpose of taking her own life. She reached that decision after being diagnosed with terminable brain cancer earlier this year. She announced in early October, she planned on taking her life on November 1st.
However, last Wednesday in a video produced by Compassion & Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society) she said she hadn’t yet decided when she would end her life.
“I still feel good enough, and I still have enough joy, and I still laugh and smile with my family and friends enough that it doesn’t seem like the right time right now. But it will come, because I feel myself getting sicker. It’s happening each week.”
In fact on Saturday November 1st, she did take her life.
The suicide advocacy group, Compassion & Choices, was running a public relations campaign featuring the story of Maynard.
Here’s a story from 2007 in which Compassion & Choices was involved: “There was a similar case in Oregon involving Lovelle Svart, which was also promoted by Compassion & Choices. Svart, who had cancer, died at the end of a party in which she had been having a great time. The party was reported in the Seattle Times, which described her as being in control. When it was time for her to die, however, she engaged in stalling behaviors (“a hugging line” and a cigarette break).
There was also this exchange between her and George Eighmey, a member of Compassion & Choices:
“Is this what you want?”
“Actually, I’d like to go on partying,” Lovelle replied, laughing before turning serious. “But yes.”
If Eighmey had wanted to give her an out, he could have said:
“You’re having so much fun, you don’t have to do this today or even next week.”
Instead, he closed her by guiding her to take the lethal dose, which killed her.”
Oregon’s law was modeled after Holland and Belgium. And in Holland and Belgium these days, people are being euthanized, by their own volition, for things like depression or ringing of the ears, not just pain.
As Diane Coleman, president and CEO of Not Dead Yet, a national grassroots disability rights group. notes in a recent CNN article, “In 2008, cancer patient Barbara Wagner was prescribed a chemotherapy treatment by her doctor, but Oregon’s state-run health plan sent a letter which denied coverage of this chemo, yet offered to cover other “treatments,” including assisted suicide.
The same scenario happened to another Oregon resident, Randy Stroup. The Oregon assisted suicide reports tell us that over 95% of those who supposedly received lethal prescriptions in Oregon had insurance, but how many got a denial like the one sent to Wagner and Stroup?
When assisted suicide is encouraged, it becomes a covered “treatment” and ultimately removes choices from patients.”
Over 85 percent of people who use Oregon’s law and end their life do so because of existential or emotional suffering, feeling of being a burden to their families, feeling the loss of the ability to enjoy life, feeling the loss of meaning.
Ira Byock, a leading palliative care physician, author, and public advocate for improving care for the end of life, remarked “Well, once those become criteria, there are a lot of problems and human suffering that then becomes open to assisted suicide and euthanasia. It’s an undeniable fact that the slippery slope exists.”
Click here for a list of disability groups opposed to physician-assisted suicide.
A recent report from the Institute of Medicine calls the country’s system of caring for terminally ill people “largely broken,” “poorly designed to meet the needs of patients” and refers to Medicare and Medicaid, health care systems designed to meet the needs of the poorest among us, “in need of major reorientation and restructuring.”
The idea of mixing a cost-cutting “treatment” such as assisted suicide into a broken, cost-conscious health care system that’s poorly designed to meet dying patient’s needs is dangerous to the thousands of people whose health care costs the most — mainly people living with a disability, the elderly and chronically ill.
Assisted suicide drugs cost less than $300. Compare that with the cost of treating a terminal illness.
Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, notes, “At less than $300, assisted suicide is, to put it bluntly, the cheapest treatment for a terminal illness. This means that in places where assisted suicide is legal, coercion is not even necessary. If life-sustaining expensive treatment is denied or even merely delayed, patients will be steered toward assisted suicide, where it is legal.”
The cofounder of the Hemlock Society has written, “In the final analysis, economics, not the quest for broadened individual liberties or increased autonomy, will drive assisted suicide to the plateau of acceptable practice.”
Euthanasia group Compassion & Choices, which released Brittany Maynard’s official obituary, has established the Brittany Maynard Fund to raise money for political campaigns to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide in targeted states across the country. This legislative session Senator Daylin Leach introduced the “Death with Dignity Act in Pennsylvania” SB 1032. It was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 24, 2013 and that is where it died. Leach is sure to re-introduce it next session and stories like Brittany Maynard’s will be used to further his efforts to get it passed.