Brittany Maynard has released a new video explaining that she is probably postponing her suicide, which she had announced would take place on November 1 (http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/29/health/oregon-brittany-maynard-video/index.html).
True Dignity is very happy for her, and for all those who would have been adversely affected by reading about this death, self-inflicted with the approval and aid of the state of Oregon, at least two doctors as required by Oregon law, and most likely by the volunteers of Compassion and Choices, who are seen in many films mixing the drugs, hovering over the patient as he or she gets ready to die, and even holding the cup as he or she drinks the poison. George Eighmey, the Compassion and Choices lobbyist who was active in getting the Vermont assisted suicide law passed, had presided over 25 of these suicides the last time we looked.
Maynard really had to explain her postponement, precisely because of the breathless publicity that followed on her choices, first to star in a slickly (and no doubt expensively) produced Compassion and Choices fund-raising video and then to give interviews to a host of media outlets.
Now that this explanation has been given, however, she is free to step back, get out of the spotlight (which, despite the cliche, really must look to her the way the headlights of a car look to a deer just before it gets hit), and re-think the consequences of this decision for herself and for the many others whose autonomy is adversely impacted by media coverage such as we have seen over the past weeks and also by the very existence of the “option” of assisted suicide in a culture marked by rampant elder abuse, abuse of people with disabilities, an obsession with cost-cutting, a denigration by a physician and author of care-giving as “enslavement”, and the same doctor’s lamenting that 80 year old sons had to wait for their inheritance from a 110 year old father (http://www.wnyc.org/story/how-medicine-can-improve-life-and-death/ minute 3:50).
The media coverage, we say again, has violated the suicide reporting guidelines of the World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/resource_media.pdf) and other public health organizations. It should stop now.
True Dignity congratulates Maynard on her decision and earnestly hopes she will turn away from suicide altogether. As many of our friends with disability could tell her, people can live good, happy and productive lives without the autonomy she says she wants to commit suicide before losing. We hope she will contact some of them (http://www.notdeadyet.org/contact-us ) and maybe also talk to Lauren Hill, a nineteen year old living with brain cancer and using her little remaining time to promote research for a cure rather than suicide. Maybe the two could make a joint video to raise funds for a cure and for better care to enable people who are dying to live fully until the end. What a productive thing that would be to do!
Finally, True Dignity urges Maynard to contact Ira Byock, the palliative care specialist who has been urging her not to commit suicide but to avail herself of the best in palliative care. As we wrote a few days ago, she is wrong in asserting that he cannot speak about her case because he does not know how her dying will unfold. In fact, having helped many people with brain cancer, die peacefully, he knows far more than she does about what brain cancer dying is like. He knows far more about the process of dying well naturally than oncologists who are not specialists in palliative care know. He knows far more about helping people die peacefully than do the Compassion and Choices people, whose specialty is helping them die prematurely, Dr. Byock can be reached at [email protected] or by calling Providence TrinityCare Hospice at 800-535-8446.