There Is Only One Appropriate Reaction to Brittany Maynard’s Passing


When Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with brain cancer, she was told she could still have up to 10 years to live. Two months later, she learned her cancer was stage four, giving her 6 months to live. She moved her family from California to Oregon, one of the five states to allow people with a terminal illness to end their own lives. At the time of her diagnosis, the 29-year-old had just celebrated her first year of marriage and was looking to start a family.

Brittany Maynard ended her life, as planned, on November 1. There were whispers that she would extend the date, but she chose to pass 2 days after her husband’s birthday as she’d intended. Her story was publicized because she wanted to raise awareness and push political action in California and across the nation.

Now it’s less than a week after her death and all people can talk about is how it played on social media. All reports can say is that Chris Christie opposes the right-to-die measure. (Really? Who’s finding that surprising?)

Yes, Brittany Maynard wanted to start a conversation, but could we all show a little respect first?

Suicide implies that you chose death when you could have chosen life. For Brittany, choosing life wasn’t an option. That option was taken off the table by stage four brain cancer. After moving to Oregon, she was given the prescription pills that would end her life and kept them in a safe place for when she needed them. It provided comfort to her.

And it doesn’t matter whether you or I think that’s a bad thing or not.

For the past 6 months as Brittany Maynard’s traveled with her loved ones and experienced life’s beauty before she couldn’t anymore, we’ve been screaming about politics. Catholic groups think that Brittany’s committed a mortal sin. Can you imagine being 29 and terrified at the fact that your best option is to take your own life? Then try adding the fact that half the country thinks you’re going to hell because of your decision. Whether or not you support the Death with Dignity Act, it’s important to remember how much courage this woman showed.

Then there’s the left, who are saying, look! See! We told you these laws were necessary. This is equally unhelpful. Now is not the time to cheerlead death.

The only appropriate reaction right now is respect. The only words that should be coming out of people’s mouths are some variation of, “I’m so sorry for Brittany’s struggles, and for her family’s loss.”

I get that this won’t happen. I’m just saying, wouldn’t it be nice if we all remembered for one moment that we don’t know what it’s like to be one of the countless people in this world suffering from a terminal illness?

I have an opinion on Brittany’s situation, but I don’t know if it’s the right opinion because I don’t know what it’s like to contract a terminal illness and be told I have 6 months to live. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you don’t either. So let’s all stop pretending that we know what’s best in this situation. We don’t.