NRL News

The Bitter Fruit of Brittany Maynard’s “Private” Choice

by | Oct 26, 2015

By Chelsea Zimmerman

29 year old Britanny Maynard made headlines last year for announcing her decision to end her life with doctor-prescribed suicide after being diagnosed with brain cancer. A Californian, she was, in her own words, “forced” to move to Oregon to exercise her “right to die” because of California’s ban on assisted suicide.

At the time, critics of death-as-medicine were rebuked for speaking out because, according to her supporters, it was her “private” choice that would have no effect on our lives whatsoever.

Fast-forward almost exactly a year and we are now seeing the bitter fruit of Mrs. Maynard’s “private” choice.

For a while things looked positive. Early this summer a bill to allow doctor prescribed suicide in the state of California failed to make it out of an assembly committee. Then the issue was brought before a state court, where it was again defeated.

But that was not enough to deter those intent on engaging doctors in the practice of killing.

Just days after the court upheld the state’s ban on suicide they reintroduced the bill in an extraordinary session of the legislature, hoping to work around members of the assembly that are vocal opponents of the practice.

And it worked. And this was the featured image that accompanied the LA Times story on the bill’s passage. This photo and caption illustrates the impact of Brittany Maynard on eventual passage of California’s physician-assisted suicide bill.

Debbie Ziegler holds a photo of her daughter — Brittany Maynard, the California woman with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to legally end her life last fall — during a news conference to announce the reintroduction of right-to-die legislation in August. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

From the story:

Despite such heartfelt opposition, the proposal gained momentum after Californian Brittany Maynard, 29, moved to Oregon last year so she could end her life with drugs to avoid the debilitating effects of brain cancer. Her case was covered nationwide, and in a videotaped appeal before her death Maynard urged California lawmakers to pass the assisted-death legislation.

The bill easily passed the Senate and on October 5 Gov. Jerry Brown officially made California the 4th state to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide.

Boom. Millions of Americans affected by one woman’s “private” choice.

Our Suicidal Split Personality

The sickening irony of the passage of the bill in the California State Assembly this September is that it came during Suicide Prevention Week — specifically on Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day!

Which, again, makes me wonder: Why suicide prevention for some and not all? Why does our tune change for the physically sick and disabled? Why then, instead of calling for suicide prevention, do we cheer them on to their deaths — and call on our medical professionals to help them die?

We can’t have it both ways, folks.

No, really. We can’t. It turns out assisted suicide actually increases other suicides.

Assisted Suicide is Never a Personal, Private Matter

What is perhaps most disturbing about Gov. Brown’s decision to allow the bill to become law was that it was, ultimately, based purely on emotion. “In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” the Governor said.

Never mind the millions of sick and disabled who will be marginalized as a result. Never mind the documented abuse and neglect of so-called “safeguards.” Never mind the “slippery slope” into anything goes euthanasia that is real and well documented.

And of course he ignored the fact that the majority of physicians — the people who would actually be responsible for ending the lives of those who want assisted suicide — consistently oppose assisted suicide. In fact, the president of the American College of Physicians wrote a strongly worded letter to Brown asking him to veto the CA legislation.

As I’ve said here many times: “death with dignity” is hailed as an exercise in personal autonomy, but the people claiming this “right” do not act alone. It’s never a personal, “private” choice. They require assistance — a coarsening of some other person’s conscience. Namely, doctors, whose job is to heal, not kill.

The Good News

All is not lost, however. I would like to end on a positive note, which I don’t get to do here very often.

Despite the movement for physician assisted suicide gaining momentum throughout the country, it still largely continues to be defeated in legislatures and in courts. Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey have rejected assisted suicide, as has the British House of Commons..

Let’s pray that trend continues and California is not, as many hope/fear, the tipping point in this decades-long battle here in the States.

Editor’s note. This appeared at and is reprinted with permission.

Categories: Assisted Suicide