Assisted Suicide Activists Use Brittany Maynard to Silence Opponents

Opinion   |   Wesley J. Smith   |   Oct 30, 2014   |   1:33PM   |   Washington, DC

I find myself forced to yet again take keyboard in hand to point out that those who claim the loudest to want a substantive discussion of legalizing assisted suicide from the Brittany Maynard advocacy offensive, actually use her tragedy to stifle debate.

Latest case in point: Physician Anand Veeravagu and medical student Tej Azadand write in today’s San Francisco Chronicle in praise of Maynard–fair enough–arguing that her willingness to discuss her pending assisted suicide should spark meaningful discourse. But then they stamp on those who would debate legalization by suggesting opponents brand the dying woman “cowardly.” From the piece:

Conversations and decisions about death are difficult and emotionally charged. It is paramount that we treat differing opinions with respect and compassion.

There are those who will identify Maynard as weak and her decision as cowardly. This is as misguided as it is unfortunate. It poisons the well for an important national conversation that requires the perspectives of individuals, like Maynard, personally facing these decisions.

brittanymaynard6Do you notice how they write that differing opinions should be treated with “respect and compassion”–and then smear those with differing opinions with a vicious canard?

No one I know has called Maynard “weak, “cowardly,” or any such thing. I have seen people asking her not to kill herself out of care and concern, but not from a place of judgmental castigation. And, as I have noted, none of us knows what might cause us to be suicidal.

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I have criticized Maynard for using her own tragedy as a means to shut others up about the issue as it relates to determining proper public policy. That’s not the same thing at all as criticizing her for her for being suicidal. In fact, it is treating her with respect. Refusing to criticize her where deserved because she is ill would be condescending.

(And none of the, “She’s not suicidal,” nonsense. Maynard says she wants to kill herself to end suffering. That’s as much suicide as the mother who kills herself because of the intense grief caused by the deaths of her children or the person who kills himself from the agony caused by clinical depression.)

Veeravagu and Azad only want one side to have the microphone. That’s all too typical in assisted suicide advocacy–and most particularly in the media which often only reports one side of the issue.

We should not surrender to emotional blackmail. No personal attacks on Maynard–opponents are usually the ones attacked personally–but no surrender to suicide promotion or the advocacy nuclear weapon of using her brain cancer as a bludgeon to silence opposing voices. Note: Wesley J. Smith, J.D., is a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture and a bioethics attorney who blogs at Human Exeptionalism.