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%AM, %05 %339 %2014 %07:%Nov

SF Gate: Maynard’s storybook death shouldn’t add support for assisted suicide

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By Debra J. Saunders

Monday, November 3, 2014

...If [Brittany] Maynard died with dignity, then does that mean that others who do not choose to choreograph their death lack dignity? There’s no getting around the language advocates have chosen — “Death with Dignity” suggests that there is something undignified about holding onto life. You’re Superman and ready to die with a smile — that’s dignity. Or you are a pathetic hanger-on.

“Brittany Maynard died with dignity from brain cancer,” read the headline of a press release issued by the organization Compassion & Choices. Suffering from a vicious form of brain cancer and near the end, the 29-year-old died Saturday surrounded by family and friends, in an Oregon home to which she moved so that she could take advantage of Oregon’s assisted-suicide law. May she rest in peace.

If Maynard died with dignity, then does that mean that others who do not choose to choreograph their death lack dignity? There’s no getting around the language advocates have chosen — “Death with Dignity” suggests that there is something undignified about holding onto life. You’re Superman and ready to die with a smile — that’s dignity. Or you are a pathetic hanger-on.

Maynard may be the first Millennial social-media-assisted suicide in America. We’ve all seen her wedding photos and that sweet close-up of a young woman with a puppy. She was beautiful and adventurous and kind and full of life. Marilyn Golden of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund in Berkeley fears that Maynard’s story line will create “suicide contagion” as other young people, even those who are not terminally ill, see her as a model. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. The magnitude of the increase is related to the amount, duration and prominence of coverage.”

Young supporters have taken up Maynard’s cause. When I wrote on her case weeks ago, I received a number of e-mails that made the same point: How Maynard dies should be her choice.

I agree, and always have. Maynard always had the ability to kill herself, and no law could stop her. Some 40,000 Americans kill themselves every year. What Maynard didn’t have was a California law that allowed physicians to participate so that she could choreograph her end to be almost as picture-perfect as her wedding.

California law does provide other options, and they truly are compassionate. Maynard could have chosen hospice. She would have been free to refuse treatment, with or without hospice. Palliative sedation would be there to ease the pain and circumvent the painful death she feared. She could have stayed at her East Bay home. Her family could have been by her side.

There are no guarantees with that approach. But it does mean that the medical system isn’t upended so physicians migrate from healers to end-of-life concierges. Most important of all: The focus of medical care in California would remain on treating disease and relieving suffering. The state would not embrace the notion that wanting to live is undignified, or that sick people should prefer to die than endure seizures or loss of motor control.

When families lose a young person, they go crazy with grief; any distraction, even anger, can be welcome. I fully appreciate how a young woman would want to find a cause to give meaning to her end. But if Maynard’s death helps to change California law, be clear that the brave new order will spell abandonment for lonely vulnerable people. These people need friends and family who make them feel wanted, not undignified.

Debra J. Saunders is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: dsaunders@sfchronicle.com  Twitter: @DebraJSaunders

Source:  SF Gate

Last modified on %AM, %21 %351 %2015 %07:%Sep


We Oppose Assisted Suicide

  • Access to Independence – San Diego
  • American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today – Northern California (ADAPT)
  • American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today – Southern California (ADAPT)
  • Alliance of Catholic Healthcare
  • American Academy of Medical Ethics (AAME)
  • American College of Physicians – American Society of Internal Medicine
  • American College of Pediatricians
  • American Medical Association
  • American Nursing Association
  • Association of Northern California Oncologists (ANCO)
  • Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL)
  • Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)
  • Berkeley Commission on Disability
  • California Catholic Conference
  • California Chapter of TASH (CalTASH)
  • California Disability Alliance (CDA)
  • California Family Alliance
  • California Family Council
  • California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC)
  • California Latino Medical Association
  • California Nurses for Ethical Standards (CNES)
  • California ProLife Council
  • California Right to Life Education Fund
  • California State Council on Developmental Disabilities
  • Californians for Disability Rights (CDR)
  • Catholics for the Common Good
  • Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities (CID)
  • Christian Medical and Dental Association
  • Coalition for Concerned Medical Professionals
  • Communities Actively Living Independents and Free (CALIF)
  • Crusade for Life
  • De La Salle Institute
  • Disability Rights Center
  • Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)
  • Disability Rights Enforcement Education Services (DREES)
  • Disability Section of the American Public Health Association
  • FREED, Center for Independent Living
  • Hispanics for Life
  • Independent Living Center of Southern California (ILCSC)
  • Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco (ILRCSF)
  • Independent Living Services of Northern California (ILSNC)
  • International Life Services
  • Joni and Friends
  • Justice for All (JFA)
  • La Raza Roundtable of Santa Clara County
  • League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
  • Life Priority Network
  • Life Legal Defense Foundation
  • Medical Oncology Association of Southern California (MOASC)
  • National Council on Disability
  • National Council on Independent Living (NCIL)
  • National Spinal Cord Injury Association
  • Not Dead Yet – California Chapter
  • Not Dead Yet (NDY)
  • Oakland Mayors Commission on Human Relations
  • Patients Rights Council
  • Physicians for Compassionate Care
  • Placer Independent Resource Services, Inc.
  • Pro-Life America
  • Right to Life League of Southern California
  • San Mateo County, CA
  • Scholl Institute of Bioethics
  • Second Thoughts, People Living with Disabilities Opposing Assisted Suicide
  • Southern California Cancer Pain Initiative
  • TASH
  • The Arc of California
  • The California Catholic Conference
  • The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network (CBC Network)
  • The Oaks Group
  • West Coast Pro Life
  • Western Service Workers Association
  • World Association of Persons with Disabilities (WAPD)