I was about 10 or 11 years old, when I finally understood what Euthanasia meant. I remember sitting in class that day when my biology teacher walked in and wrote the word on the chalkboard. He then turned around and asked the class “Who knows what this term means?” We all just stared at him, absolutely clueless. When no one raised their hand, he went on to explain what it meant, then he said; “A doctor tells a cancer patient they cannot be cured, and they only have a few weeks before the Cancer takes their life. The patient asks the doctor to euthanize him/her. You are the Doctor, what would you do?” I knew my answer before he had even finished asking the question. “No”
This same question has surfaced, following the recent death of Brittany Maynard, who ended her life after finding out she had a terminal brain tumor, and only six months to live. Under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, she asked her doctor to give her a lethal dose of Bariturates, which she took on November 1.
Life has value and under no circumstance should anyone be allowed to end it. Be it their life or someone else’s. It is a fundamental human right. It is unfair to choose to end your own life, when others fight just for the right to live. There are three reasons why I disagree with Maynard’s decision to end it all.
First of all, millions of people die all over the world, without the possibility of treatment. Maynard had the possibility of treatment. Chemotherapy, though strenuous and expensive, was available to her. She refused to follow this option. Her explanation was “They didn’t seem to make sense…” because of “the level of side effects [she] would suffer…”
In comparison to her situation, survival rates of Cancer in less economically developed countries are very poor. According to the World Health Organization, anti-cancer drugs were only available in 22% and affordable in 11% of 39 African countries that participated in a survey of Cancer programs in 2001. Half of the patients who are diagnosed with cancer die from the disease, mainly because it is discovered late, and there are inadequate treatment facilities. My point, Maynard had options, options that other patients in the world would sacrifice anything to have.
As a Christian of the Catholic faith, I am convinced that Maynard did not make the right choice. My beliefs may not be yours, but I think that God has a reason for putting each individual in the situation that he or she finds himself in. In my opinion, if Maynard had held on, with faith and belief, instead of leaving a legacy of letting go like she did, she might have been the first woman to be treated and healed of Glioblastoma.
With the American Cancer Society’s reports of continuously positive results on cancer statistics, any miracle could have been possible. In an article published by the American Cancer Society, “approximately 13.7 million Americans with a history of cancer were alive on January 1, 2012. Some of these individuals were cancer free, while others still had evidence of cancer and may have been undergoing treatment. The 5-year relative survival rate for all cancers diagnosed between 2003 and 2009 is 68%, up from 49% in 1975-1977.”
Maynard argues that the pain would have been unbearable, and she wanted to choose “to go with dignity”. This is understandable on some level. I have never had any form of cancer and I couldn’t possibly understand what she went through with her family, and how she suffered. I also understand that medical statistics for her specific kind of Cancer did not provide any hope in her situation. It is natural to want to give up.
However, I also know that in 2013, Talia Castellano gave in to stage 4 Neuroblastoma after a 5-year battle. I know that she didn’t give up. She fought with everything that she had. She lived every moment that she had on earth, enjoyed the good days with her family and endured the bad days. She gave hope to many, simply by holding on and keeping hope alive. I know that that little girl died a fighter. In her own way, she was a hero.
Maynard on the other hand, sacrificed the remainder of her days on earth just because she was afraid of pain. She gave up moments of joy and laughter that she could have shared with her loved ones. She also gave up the moments of encouragement that her family could have given her in those bad days.
To me, Talia Castellano was more of an icon than Maynard will ever be. Giving up will never be an option, and I hope that people don’t heed to the idea that it’s okay to quit on life.