Monday, November 3, 2014

God values all life, whether thriving or declining, and we should too

You may have heard by now about Brittany Maynard, and that yesterday she ended her life.

Matt Walsh wrote an incredible piece on how suicide is not brave. He seriously says everything and more that I would want to say on the issue of physician assisted suicide, euthanasia and suicide in general. His point: 
life is valuable. All life is valuable.

Honestly, I wasn't going to write anything about the topic on this blog because, while I'm very well acquainted with the abortion side of the pro-life coin, this is an area with which I am not as comfortable debating and discussing. And not because I don't know where I stand. I am absolutely unmovable in my belief that all life has value. Every.single.life. At every.single.stage. All life is dignified. All life has purpose. Even when we don't want to see it or believe it.

This is a topic that hasn't had much public discussion. But that needs to change because it is being discussed elsewhere. Behind closed doors. Among the people who will change the laws and the culture in favor of legalized suicide. And if we aren't sure where we stand, if we're not willing to have the hard conversations amongst ourselves, the people we care about, the people we know and even those with whom we disagree, soon we'll wake up and wonder why we didn't get a say.

You have a say. Now say it!

So last night I was scrolling through Instagram and I came across a post from a little shop in California that I think makes some of the cutest clothes and accessories. To my surprise, I mean my absolute shock, it was a quote from Brittany Maynard about being brave. And the hash tag #diewithdignity was used (we will get to what that means and does not mean in a moment). What disturbed me was that the owner of this shop is a Christian. But what also disturbed me was that in just 20 minutes or so, the post had received over 200 likes and several comments of praise. By this morning it was up to 400+ likes.

I was grieved. So grieved.

Of course I had to leave a comment. You know me. And what I said was this:

It is not my intention to preach here but I can't pass by without saying something. I am so grieved by the support Brittany has received for this choice she has made. There is nothing dignified about suicide. It's tragic. Life has value at every stage,  during every season, whether thriving or barely hanging on. God believed her life to be so valuable that He gave it to her. Only He has the authority to determine when it ends. I'll quote Matt Walsh, "if God reached out from the depths of eternity to hand us this life, how can we think it acceptable or worse, meritable  to throw it out before our time is finished?" It is never God's will for one to end the life He gave us- the most valuable and incredible gift. Suicide is not brave because escaping suffering is not brave. Because the implication then is that fighting until the dire end, suffering all the way, is not brave when in fact THAT is what is truly brave.

Almost immediately I received several responses. I was expecting them. But what I didn't expect was what these women were saying. And the most surprising response was the claim that Brittany did not commit suicide, that she did not want to die.

At first I was speechless. How can you say that the intentional ending of your life prematurely is not suicide? That is precisely what suicide is! But then it struck me. We are quickly doing here exactly what we've done with abortion. Again, this is just the flip side of the same coin. With abortion we swear up and down that "terminating a pregnancy" is not murder. Now we are saying that "physician assisted suicide" and "euthanasia" are not self-murder. But the same holds true in this case as with abortion. The intentional ending of a life is murder. Whether it's the murder of another or the murder of self. Suicide, like abortion, ends the life of a human being who has purpose, value and dignity.

And I am still hung up on the defense that she did not want to die. Of course she didn't. Last I checked, no one wants to die. But we all will at some point or another. The fact that she knew it was coming sooner than most doesn't change a thing. None of us know when or how we will die. But it's going to happen. To beat God to the punch is to say to Him, "You are not God. You have no authority over my life. I have the authority." I suppose to someone who isn't a Christian that attitude is just fine. But for a Christian to support such an action, such a stance, such an attitude, is contrary to everything scripture teaches. 

We are created by God, for God, for His glory, for His purpose. How dare we think otherwise? And how dare we support someone whose actions and words say otherwise?

Now, let's visit that term "die with dignity" because it absolutely disgusts me. Completely. There is nothing dignified about ending your own life. There is nothing dignified about ending your life because you want to escape suffering. But that begs a question, is it not dignified then to suffer until the end? To say that ending your life early means that you are dying with dignity implies that dying at the end of suffering hard and holding firm until the end is not dignified. Are those who lose all capacities due to illness or disability not dignified? Is there no dignity in their suffering? In their life? And ultimately their death? Of course there is dignity.

But we can't have it both ways. Walsh addresses this in his post (link above). We can't say that it's both dignified to end a life early and to die as a result of the suffering and the disease. It's either/or. To claim both exist is pure insanity.

But sadly, that is the world in which we live. It's a world where we say things like, "that is what is best for me" and "what is right for me is not necessarily right for you" and, my husband's favorite, "this is my truth" as if to say that we get to decide truth and morality individually. But we don't get to decide those things! The truth is that what is morally right is right for all and what is morally wrong is wrong for all. Only God determines those things.

Many are claiming that what Brittany did, in ending her own life, was brave. Choosing an escape route in order to avoid suffering is not brave. Choosing to leave your family, the people you love the most, behind, is not brave.

Perhaps to some, what she did seems beautiful, dignified or brave. But to anyone who truly values life, what she did is an affront to God - the One who gave her her very life, the life she chose to end. He values all life no matter the development, the season, the situation, the thriving, the suffering or the thriving. And we should as well.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live Deuteronomy 30:19

12 comments:

  1. A blogger/friend of mine recommended your blog to me, and I'm so glad she did. You put into words basically everything I've been feeling and thinking regarding this situation, and I find it tremendously sad that more Christians aren't standing up and saying no - this was wrong, it was not "brave" nor was it dignified, and this is nothing short of a tragedy.

    Thank you for saying what so many are unwilling to say!

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  2. Once again, you nailed it, Jessi. This story has upset me so much. I was almost in tears last night when I saw that she went through with it. You so perfectly summed up my exact thoughts on the situation. I will never understand how this is dignified. I think that really takes away from those who choose to suffer until the end. That is true bravery and dignity. I'm praying so hard that her family and supporters will see that and not continue her fight for making this legal everywhere.

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  3. Well said young lady, well said.
    How very sad that the promotion of self control over every aspect is once again a deception from the father of all lies.

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  4. This is just silly. All competent adults - regardless of their nationalities, professions, religious beliefs, and ethical and political views - who are suffering unbearably from incurable illnesses should have the possibility of various choices at the end of their life. Death is unavoidable.

    Are you actually interested in saving babies' lives, or preserving the life of someone who is profoundly suffering and has been told by medical professionals that they are, with certainty, going die soon, and suffer - or are you interested in making people's lives harder? So far, all signs point to the latter, and your actions indicate that you and the ludicrous organizations you support are simply making people suffer more, while doing little to promote the health and lives of children.

    You are not pro-life. You are anti-choice. There is a big difference there. Republicans remain largely disinterested in furthering child health, but they do care about restricting reproductive rights. Never mind that the ability to plan your family is associated with positive health outcomes all over the world; you support organizations that dedicate their time and energy into blocking access to birth control and abortion. You sit and write blog posts about how someone suffering from terminal cancer choosing FOR HERSELF to die with dignity is simultanoeusly telling everyone else who is in the same boat, but doesn't choose to commit suicide, that they are not dignified. Brittany Maynard said no such thing. She believed that to die the way she was going to, was not a dignified way to leave this Earth. She never said she thought that about anyone else. You're putting words in her mouth, and you should be ashamed of yourself for doing so.

    Stop being such a coward. Stop allowing comments to be posted that only support what you say, and actually have the guts to debate someone who opposes what you say. You really think you're right and that you can back up your statements? Then publish these comments. Don't think I didn't notice that you left other comments of mine unpublished. You're such a coward.

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  5. Ashley- Goodness your tone has turned a bit harsh here. And I'm not quite sure why. If you go back to the post to which you are referring (here's the link for ya, you will see that not only did I publish your comments but I also responded to them in length. I have my comments set so that posts over 2 weeks old need to be approved by me simply so that I am notified and see them. Otherwise they may go unnoticed and I like to be able to respond when needed. Forgive me if my little life over here in Nevada got a bit busy and I wasn't able to respond quick enough for you.

    As far as this post goes, all comments have been published. If you are referring to the comments that I mentioned in the blog post, the ones on Instagram, I didn't feel it necessary to post a discussion that took place in a different venue on someone else's feed. My point was not for you to read and critique what was said elsewhere, it was for you to hear what I have to say on the topic at hand: physician assisted suicide.

    And as far as responding to you goes, I'm going to sit this one out. I'm not going to spend anymore time responding to someone who wants to jump to quick conclusions and call me a "coward" for absolutely no reason. You know I'm not a coward. As I told you before, I will leave the discussion open as long as it remains civil. If you want to know how I feel about so-called "death with dignity," then re-read the post. I was pretty clear.

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  6. Fine, so you ended up posting my latest comments on the other post. I jumped to conclusions there - no problem admitting that. I was wrong to assume.

    I don't however know that you're not a coward. If you want to continue to call yourself pro-life, supporting anti-gun legislation and taking away women's rights — all while supporting political parties that try to block programs that feed the poor, help impoverished children and would give low-income Americans health care, is the exact opposite of “pro-life” - because while you right-wing lunatics do all you can to infringe on a woman’s Constitutionally protected right to an abortion, claiming that you're protecting an innocent child’s life, the parties you support are simultaneously supporting bills that would cut funding for health care and food assistance to millions more children who are already here and in need. The word “hypocrite” doesn’t quite cover this kind of reprehensible behaviour.

    And yes, you're right, my tone has turned harsh and will continue to be harsh, because while you and people like you cite Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, and spout off about being "pro-life", and criticize people like Brittany Maynard while at the same time, you and people like you are caressing a semi-automatic weapon designed to inflict maximum and often deadly damage on another human being. Somehow, I just don’t think a modified AK-47 would be “Jesus approved" - so, again, not pro-life. Just anti-choice.

    My words aren't any more harsh than your sentiments. Don't kid yourself into thinking you're not being cruel and judgmental.

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  7. Ashley, this discussion is over. Come to my blog and continue to call me names and that earns you the boot. I tried to stay cordial but I'm done. Your comments are no longer welcome here.

    And for the record, I am not a Republican. But thanks for attacking me for what you believe are their shortcomings. All the best to you!

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  8. Hi Jessi,

    (1) We have freedom of religion here which is allowing you to express your views and support them from your religious view point.
    (2) Not everyone believes what you do and what you believe should not dictate what others believe (see #1).

    While you say so strongly that all life has purpose, in the case of Brittany I just cannot agree with you. Or at least I can agree in that, yes her life had purpose (and I'm sure she would think the same thing), but continuing her life would only draw out suffering. I would not advocate that she end her life but neither would I advocate that her right to choose be eliminated. This issue is NOTHING like abortion. This issue isn't even that close to how we usually think of suicide where the person feels there is no hope for getting better. In those cases, of course we should make help (in all forms) available to those people that need it. Instead in the case of Brittany we know, beyond doubt, that continuing her life would bring increase pain and suffering to her and those around her. It would bring additional burdens as well - financial and emotional. What is the purpose in that?! How is it compassionate to require that of someone?

    I'm certain my words here will not change how you see this situation, but like you said "I can't pass by without saying something." I bet you'll argue with me to say that I cannot "know beyond doubt". To that I will refer back to the first things I noted. I know I cannot change your views and I'm ok with that. I'm happy we live in a country that allows for the freedoms to have different views. But what worries me and has compelled me to write is that you would like to use your views and religion to dictate, through laws, how others may lead their lives. Please show me an argument for Brittany to be forced to continue living in increasing pain and suffering that does not require that I believe in the religion you do.

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  9. Megan, I appreciate you taking the time to comment. And I do apologize up front for the lengthy response but I am very long winded. First, I am in no way trying to dictate what others believe on the matter. I agree we are free to choose our beliefs. As with the majority of my posts, I am appealing to the Christian and pleading that we look to scripture on the matter, on all matters.

    I am NOT suggesting we force someone to live who has no desire to live. Of course it saddens me that someone would want to end their life rather than fight for that very life, the one single most valuable gift they've ever been given, but that's not my place to decide. It's a tragedy when any person self-murders. Murder is wrong in all cases. And while it’s not right, we are still free to choose it. There are, however, always consequences.

    What I AM suggesting, and it's two-fold, is that
    1.Legalizing physician assisted suicide is a dangerous path. Where I take issue is giving doctors the legal authority to administer drugs with the intent to kill. That is ludicrous. A doctor's role is not to kill, but to save and protect life. If they cannot save it, the logical next step would be to help their patient cope until death is inevitable, not prescribe them drugs to kill themselves.

    2.Applauding someone who chooses to commit suicide is sending the way wrong message. If someone decides to end their own life we should always see that as tragic. For whatever reason, they looked ahead and saw nothing worth living for. Isn't that sad? Why would we in any way encourage such an outlook? We never should. Religion or not, that is a tragedy. That person should always be offered help. In any other situation, as you said, we see an obligation to step in a stop someone from committing suicide. And yet here, I guess we're saying there is a line, when things get SO bad, when the suffering is going to be TOO hard, then we should say not only, "do what you will" but "bravo! How BRAVE you are!!"

    But that then begs the question, who am I or who are you to decide what is or isn't TOO hard, or TOO much suffering? Why does it have to be physical suffering? Let's say I was in combat and I suffer from severe PTSD. My life has been flipped on it's head. I can't sleep, I can't eat, I've tried to seek help but it's hard to get out of bed. It's hard to look at my children with joy. I am suffering and I know I will for the rest of my life. And I think it would just be easier to end it now. The suffering is too much. As you said, what’s the purpose in THAT suffering? Who are you to say I shouldn't end it now? Why is my life worth more than the woman who is suffering through crippling cancer?

    It's not more valuable! They are both of EQUAL value. Both deserve a better reaction than, "what you're doing is brave" or “in some cases suicide is best.” Because suicide is never brave and life is always valuable.

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  10. No worries about the long response, I can be long winded too. :) Plus this is a challenging topic and it would be hard to be succinct.

    My responses:
    Yes, after I left first comment I had to remind myself the fact about the audience you're writing for and what you've suggested in (2). I think part of what got to me was your call to discuss this because it is being talked about "among the people who will change the laws". I agree with you that it should be talked about because this is a big deal. But what got me worried is that your following discussion of your view on the matter, from which I was assuming you would like the laws to be based, seemed only to be supported by your religious views. I fully realize I'm making assumptions here and am reading a lot into what you've written.

    1) In this case, even if Brittany didn't kill herself death was inevitable. Coping, in her case, would have been multitudes of strong drugs that combined with her deterioration would have made her not who she was.

    2) You are right, it is tragic that things got so bad for Brittany. I think she is brave because she made a decision, based on the facts (death was coming very soon and very painfully to her), that many people would not agree with. It is always brave to stand up for what you believe in.

    Lastly, one issue that I see with your comparison to something like PTSD is that we can treat PTSD. It is not incurable. All the examples are things that you can continue to keep fighting and trying to cure. In Brittany's case there was no fighting left to do.

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  11. I'd like to respond to a couple comments on here as i'm one of those "right wing lunatics"

    ONE- I specifically would like to respond to the notion that being pro-life means I support taking womens reproductive rights away. It is very easy to get birth control... head on over to your local OB/GYN and they will load you up on condoms and practically free birth control pills... What you are talking about "ashley" is taking your right away to kill innocent life. What about the constitutional rights of the unborn? if anything else, THEY are the ones getting the short end of the stick here.. or should i say, the vacuum that will take their tiny bodies apart, or the abortion pill that will kill their existence?

    TWO- Emily Maynard: This isnt going to be long winded... Its suicide.. its not brave. Its playing God. She took the God factor out... What if a cure to here disease would have been found next month? What if a miracle happened in the coming and she was cured of her cancer? She chose to play God.. her outlook was grim, she had cancer, and was probably suffering more than i could imagine.. but she took the God factor out.. suicide is not brave.

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  12. Megan- You are right that my religion informs my view in this area and as I said before, all areas. But that doesn't mean I can't also see this from a simply moral and logical perspective as well. There are both secular and religious arguments to be made for why assisted suicide is a terrible road to travel down. Sadly there are several examples already in place for us to look to. One doesn’t need to believe in God to see that the consequences are devastating.

    What this all boils down to is
    1.what is dignity?
    We have this idea that dignity is based on what we are capable of doing and not doing. It's this idea that if what we are able to do now changes, goes down hill, then somehow we are no longer dignified. You said it yourself when you said, "her deterioration would have made her not who she was." How would losing certain abilities make her into someone she wasn't? You are always you. Things about you change. We're all heading toward death. We're all deteriorating, some quicker than others. But the essence of who we each are will never change. We are dignified because we are human beings, each with value and purpose, even when we don't see it or understand it.

    2.suffering
    As I stated before, suffering is suffering and we can try to distinguish between psychological and mental and physical suffering but over time, that argument will not stand. Logically it cannot. In countries like the Netherlands and Belgium where PSA has been on the books for years, the argument is already present that psychological suffering is suffering all the same. From this article:

    "The physicians association says further investigation into non-medical factors is needed and Dr Nieuwenhuijzen Kruseman adds that euthanasia should be allowed even when a patient is not suffering from a terminal disease: "It doesn't always have to be a physical ailment, it could be the onset of dementia or chronic psychological problems, it's still unbearable and lasting suffering. It doesn't always have to be a terminal disease.""

    Ultimately what happens is that in order to eliminate suffering, they will seek to eliminate the sufferer. You are arguing for choice- that we have the option to choose PSA. But what happens when that choice becomes a "duty to die"? And that isn't just some imaginative concept. Do you know that 8% of infant deaths in the Netherlands are murder by physician? Of course they'll call it something different, but that's what it is. Those babies don't get a choice. In other instances, the elderly are convinced that they are more valuable dead because their organs can be harvested and passed on.

    As we continue to legalize PSA in this country, there WILL come a time when many are no longer given a choice. That is where this road goes. Once we get on it, it cannot be stopped. Logically that is where it ends.

    If you get a chance, I really recommend reading Wesley Smith - Human Exceptionalism. He writes a blog and has a book called Forced Exit. He is, as far as I know Catholic?, but in my recollection he rarely, if ever, uses religion in his arguments. He makes very good points and cites a lot of what is going on in Europe right now (which is horrifying!). Something to consider.

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