Monday, October 27, 2014

Let Brittany Maynard Die In Peace

I really get sick and tired of armchair moralists trying to pass judgment on others' choices - when if they had to walk in their shoes - I seriously doubt they'd evince the same degree of self-righteousness. Such is the case now with 29-year old Brittany Maynard who has chosen to end her life on Nov. 1 (in Oregon) rather than endure the final hideous stages of terminal brain cancer.

Many objectors aren't even aware of the provisions of the Oregon law which requires:

1) Person must be at least 18 years of age.

2) Must be an Oregon resident.

3) Must be capable of making the decision for themselves

4) Must have been diagnosed as terminally ill or dying within 6 months. (Two doctors have to confirm it)

5) Must report the event to police.

Other nattering nabobs confuse the physician assisted practice (to shorten agony from physical complications)  in Oregon with physician -forced suicide, such as Jack Kevorkian used to perform. As Ethics professor Arthur Caplan pointed out on Melissa Harris Perry's show on Saturday,  there is no comparison. At NO stage is the person forced to do anything. The choice is entirely left to her and she can choose to opt out any time. She's merely provided the wherewithal and she administers it herself.

Brittany specifically moved to Oregon to become a resident to be able to make this decision and carry it out without legal sanctions.  Given she;s well past "legal age" and is currently in possession of her faculties, I don't believe it's anyone else's business what she does. (And btw, images shown on one evening newscast disclosed the tumor already occupying something like one fourth of her brain.)

Do the judgmentalists really understand what happens to people in the terminal phases of brain cancer? Do they appreciate that the victims become essentially vegetables incapable of consciousness or the most rudimentary thought - with no knowledge of their surroundings and all the time in unbearable pain as the tumor generates enormous pressures inside their craniums. Are they aware of how all control of bodily functions is lost, and the person becomes a writhing mass of flesh that must be cleaned up almost on the hour else is left lying in their own bodily waste? Are they aware the person's mouth must be wiped constantly to prevent the drool from pooling on the mattress? No, I don't suppose they are, else they'd not be so cavalier in passing judgment

One of the aspects discussed on Melissa Harris Perry Saturday is the claim by religionists that "there is redemptive value in undeserved suffering" and Brittany ought to be willing to go through it to expiate her sins. Of course, this is total hogwash - but then I am coming at it from the POV of a Materialist and long time atheist. As noted in prior posts "sin" is an invention of the religious clerical elites to try to keep accounts of human transgressions on some spiritual balance sheet, but in reality what one calls "sin" is a subjective moral judgment that can vary from culture to culture, religion to religion. (E.g. Catholicism condemns masturbation and artificial birth control as "mortal sins", most Protestant religions don't.).

"Sin" then  is a macguffin invented by religions to keep humans in an inferior state as opposed to attaining mastery over their lives. In the case of Catholics, for example, confession ensures a constant "sin treadmill"  where the person is never really free of the absolution of the assorted priests he sees over a lifetime. He keeps on "sinning" and then keeps coming back to confess them for relief - or "salvation".  Thus, sin is also a ridiculous concept. As my atheist friend Rick put it: "How can a finite glob of ambulatory flesh "offend" a supposedly infinite Being? It's totally ludicrous."  Indeed!

Apart from that, it's nonsensical and arrogant to claim severe pain has any "redemptive value" to clean out sins. However, I do concede that if I believed in reincarnation - as many do - then one might regard personal suffering as a way to pay off karma from past lives, and hence ensure a better one in the new incarnation. There is a more rational basis to that, but not the concept of "expiation" or "redemptive value" which is asinine.

Director of Medical Ethics at New York University, Arthur Caplan,   noted on Harris' program:

"The Oregon law has been around for a decade. We haven't seen a slippery slope. We haven't seen the patients pushed off by doctors into the hereafter. I was an early critic like Ira Bailoc but I changed my views because it hasn't been abused."

If this ethicist can change his mind, many others can too. The point is that the Oregon law is not being abused and with the strict provisions in place it is not likely to be. Nor are thousands of people likely to move there to do it, and the total number thus far is less than 20 - which is less than 2 per year. What we must guard against here is moralist driven hysteria, as in the case of the use of medical marijuana.

Humans possess rational faculties but they become redundant if we are loathe to use them. Brittany is using her rational faculties - whether in fact she goes through with her plan, or she cancels out at anytime before.

Ultimately, the choice is hers!

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