There’s always hope
By Paul Russell
Euthanasia and assisted suicide enthusiasts peddle a wide range of slogans to further their goals and to influence the public towards the thought that perhaps being legally able to help someone to die or to kill them is a benefit both to the individual and to society at large.
That they should ‘sloganise’ their campaigns is entirely unremarkable; it’s what every organisation pushing for some change or some recognition would do. That their slogans are paper-thin veneers over precisely the opposite outcome is where the danger really lies.
Take for example the slogan of ‘choice’. This modern concept of ‘choice’ is closely aligned to autonomy – our right to self-determination and self-direction. Its use is beguiling precisely because ‘choice’ in general terms is prized as an integral part of freedom broadly understood.
However, in the context of euthanasia or assisted suicide, the ‘choice’ to be made dead is not really a choice at all; it is the end of choice precisely because it excludes all other possibilities in such a definite and irredeemable fashion. It excludes any and all other choices.
How many times have we heard stories of people who have ‘defied-the-odds’ and outlived a difficult prognosis by months and years and even experiencing remission to return to a full ‘normal’ life? There have even been cases of misdiagnosis resulting tragically in assisted suicide. Making the ‘choice’ to be dead denies any other possibility and extinguishes both life and hope.
Brittany Maynard had glioblastoma multiforme; a debilitating brain tumour that, in its final stages, grows at an alarming rate interfering with brain function and ultimately resulting in death. Medscape online notes that, ‘No current treatment is curative’.
Maynard ended her life using Oregon’s assisted suicide laws on the 1st of November last year. Maynard became the poster girl for the assisted suicide movement in the USA and even post-death is being used to promote assisted suicide across the Union and especially in her home state of California.
The use of people like Brittany Maynard to promote a cause like this is deeply disturbing. We will never know, at the end, how free a decision it was for her to suicide given the likelihood that her public profile and her announced intention to die at the end of October last sets a trajectory and an expectation.
What we can now say most clearly is that she did have other choices which she excluded by her death and which, according to the a US CBS Network Sixty Minutes report on the 29th of March, could possibly have included remission.
In an extensive and beautifully constructed report, 60 Minutes’ anchor, Scott Pelley and a camera crew followed patients in a stage 1 immunotherapy trial on patients with glioblastoma reporting that the introduction of a variant of the polio virus into the tumour cells is acting to trigger the body’s immune system into attacking the tumour which, in early cases, has seen the tumour disappear completely over time.
Even Duke University’s head of the trial, in the report, says he is edging closer to the possibility of using the word ‘cure’.
While yet in the early stages of the trial process, tests on many other forms of cancer are returning favourable results.
This is great news. But as with all such medical breakthroughs, its announcement will come as ‘too late’ for some and will no doubt bring widely mixed emotions to those who have lost loved ones to this same form of tumour. Whether Brittany Maynard may have been able to access this trial is pure conjecture.
This breakthrough ultimately says to the euthanasia and assisted suicide argument that changing the law based on one individual’s circumstances at one solitary point in history is a denial of hope. It serves to highlight that the pro euthanasia and assisted suicide movement, in many subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways, is saying that this person (Maynard) and these persons (extending the individual to a category of persons) have no hope and, because of their circumstances, aren’t actually entitled to have any hope.
It’s not really about ‘choice’. It never was and never will be so. It’s really about the denial of life and of hope by the reduction of the human person to simply an object of pity and a victim of circumstance.
Hope, on the otherhand, can be a sustaining force even in the most difficult of circumstances. In the Sixty Minutes report they follow a mother of two who is hanging on to the hope that she will see her sons graduate, marry and then have her grandchildren. But even in seemingly bleak circumstances the hope of seeing another sunrise or another visit from a friend or loved one cannot be underestimated as a force to sustain equilibrium, joy and life.
To discourage or deny hope must be one of the cruelest things any one person can do to another short of killing them. Sugar coating it with the false mantra of choice makes it doubly so.
Please take the time to view the CBS two part video by clicking HERE.