Brittany Maynard was the beautiful young woman who chose to undergo assisted suicide after being diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the most deadly form of brain cancer. She did so with the full support of her husband, Dan Diaz. Together, the couple lobbied hard for assisted suicide to be legalized in all 50 states. After her death, Diaz has carried on with their mission, vowing to pass “right to die” legislation in every state. And he may get his wish: assisted suicide is legal in several states, and several more have pending legislation that could potentially legalize it.
The real question is, why does Diaz want to legalize assisted suicide so badly? Why does the assisted suicide lobby want people to be able to kill themselves? The reason given is often to avoid suffering, so that people don’t have to spend their final days in pain and anguish. But a new article in Kaiser Health News points out that most patients who undergo assisted suicide don’t use it to avoid pain — they use it to avoid disability, a sentiment echoed by Diaz himself.
Many of the dying patients polled spoke not of pain, but of losing “autonomy,” of losing control of bodily functions, and of not being able to engage in enjoyable activities. Diaz agreed, insinuating that living life as a disabled person is not a life worth living.
“If I find myself in a situation where I can’t go to the bathroom on my own, where someone has to change my diapers, where I can’t feed myself, where I can’t care for the people around me, where other people have to move me around to keep me from having bed sores, I would then submit, is that really living?” he asked.
Maynard suffered seizures, and indeed, Diaz claims that it was a seizure the morning of her death that prompted her to go through with her fatal plan, after she had previously said that she didn’t feel it was the right time to die. A book titled “Compassion in Dying: Stories of Dignity and Choice” quoted a woman named Penny Schleuter, who pointed out that the pain from her cancer could be controlled, but that wasn’t her biggest fear. “I like doing things for myself, and the idea of having somebody take care of me like I am a little 2-month-old baby is just absolutely repulsive. It’s more painful than any of the pain from the cancer.” she said.
This is not about helping people to avoid excruciating pain. It’s about preventing disability.
The thousands of disabled Americans who live life every day under those exact conditions would say that yes, it is still living. They are still living valuable lives, and arguing that people should be allowed to kill themselves lest they have to wear adult diapers, be in a wheelchair, or have someone take care of their needs is not only dangerous — it devalues the lives of people who are severely ill or disabled, and could put pressure on them to kill themselves — a view some hold as ableist and offensive.
This is the problem with assisted suicide. The claim is always that it will only be legalized for the terminally ill, but like we’ve seen in Europe, it never stays that way. Soon, people who are elderly, disabled, poor, mentally ill… they all become fair game as well.
Once the goalposts have been moved, it becomes about euthanizing people based on their “quality of life” — which truly doesn’t respect life at all.