11/28/14

Arguments against Brittany Maynard’s assisted suicide ignore her point of view on suffering

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by Kelly Stewart

Brittany Maynard died earlier this month.

Diagnosed with incurable brain cancer at 29 and given six months to live, Maynard relocated to Oregon to take advantage of the state’s death with dignity law. The law permits “mentally competent, terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live” to access, as Maynard describes it, “the medical practice of aid in dying.”dignity_human

Maynard became an advocate and public face for the death with dignity movement. In an opinion piece for CNN and a widely viewed video, she describes the severity of her physical and emotional suffering, the comfort of knowing she can “end [her] dying process if it becomes unbearable,” and the importance of making that option available to people without the “flexibility, resources and time” that allowed her and her husband to relocate.

“Consistent life” Catholics have been some of Maynard’s most fervent critics. Pope Francis didn’t mention her by name but denounced the “false sense of compassion” that motivates death with dignity and abortion rights laws. Various other Catholic responses have characterized her death as evidence of the cheapening of human life; an act that denies the dying person’s responsibility to others; an affront to the dignity of dying people; or even a “slippery slope” that leads to eugenics and genocide. And consistently, Maynard’s Catholic and other Christian critics have appealed to the redemptive value of suffering.

Michael Sean Winters’ blog post “Brittany Maynard’s Suffering” is representative. He writes: “Christians must reclaim the ability to embrace suffering.” He offers a few caveats: We shouldn’t be masochists, and we should work to alleviate some forms of suffering, especially “those varieties of suffering in which we are complicit.” Still, he insists, “in the face of some experiences of suffering, we must never lose sight of the need to embrace it.”

Death with Dignity CampaignFor Winters, Maynard’s decision is fundamentally about a refusal to embrace suffering as meaningful — and, therefore, a refusal to acknowledge human finitude, vulnerability, and radical dependence on God. He characterizes this as a U.S. cultural as well as a generational problem. Children and young adults today, he suggests, have been sheltered from the raw experiences of pain and loss that accustomed earlier generations to the inevitability of suffering and instilled respect for its spiritual value.

Cathy Lynn Grossman’s blog post for Religion News Service “Does Suffering Have Spiritual Meaning?” takes a similar approach. Like Winters, Grossman frames the death with dignity question in terms of a spiritual vs. secular divide. The religious voices she includes in her article all oppose right-to-die laws: a Baptist woman whose teenage daughter has brain cancer, Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II, and Jesuit Fr. Kevin Fitzgerald.

“When can we say that the potential to grow or overcome or bear that suffering, that potential which made that suffering meaningful, is gone forever?” she quotes Fitzgerald as saying. “Why do we think someone is enlightened enough to know their suffering is not redemptive?”

Grossman does not, however, spend much time on Maynard’s moral reasoning. Instead, she frames Maynard’s decision as a secular, perhaps youthful abandonment of serious reflection on suffering.

“Her choice to die,” Grossman writes, “may reinforce to many — particularly religiously-disengaged millennials — that spiritual meaning, like suffering, is up to you.”

Readings these responses, I have been struck by how tenaciously Maynard’s critics avoid engaging her actual arguments and how little detail they offer in support of their own positions.

They write moving personal reflections on the deaths of loved ones. They offer general tributes to the relationship between love and vulnerability and suffering. They incorporate a few laments about secularism and young adults. But their discussions of Maynard, the death with dignity movement, and even their own theologies of suffering seem to remain at a general level.redemptive-suffering-statue-with-tears

That’s a problem, because when we discuss a concept whose history is as ugly as that of “redemptive suffering,” it is irresponsible to be vague. When we discuss the Christian meaning of suffering, it is irresponsible to ignore decades of feminist, womanist, and postcolonial work on the problems with its valorization in Christian theology. And when an actual suffering and dying person tells us, “This is more than I can bear,” it is irresponsible and cruel to respond that she couldn’t possibly know that.

Before she died on Nov. 1, Brittany Maynard made a case for the right of terminally ill people to end their suffering quickly. She argued that no one else could say when her suffering became intolerable, when her life became unlivable, when her dignity was diminished, or how she was to face her painful and untimely death.

If you read her arguments, listen carefully to her experiences of illness, and maintain — from a position of relative health and safety — that Maynard should nonetheless have embraced her suffering as a redemptive experience, please be careful, suspicious of yourself, and painstakingly detailed in how you make that case.

Under what conditions is suffering redemptive? By what criteria do you distinguish suffering that should be alleviated from suffering that should be embraced? When should your theology of suffering be imposed on people who do not understand their suffering as redemptive? What are the consequences of doing that? What are the consequences of not doing that? Is the embrace of suffering as “countercultural” for others as it is for you? And how do you know you’re right?

These sorts of questions should guide discussions of Brittany Maynard’s death and activism. And they should make us very cautious about finding grace in someone else’s suffering.

Complete Article HERE!

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11/24/14

The Hanging Coffin

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First appearing during the Spring and Autumn Period (722-481BC), hanging coffin is a unique funeral and sacrifice custom of the minority groups in southern China. People put the bodies of their ancestors into wooden coffins that were later placed in caves of precipitous cliffsides.

Most coffins were made with one whole piece of wood into various shapes. It was said that the hanging coffins could prevent bodies from being taken by beasts and also bless the soul eternally.

  Famous Hanging Coffin Sites :

While hanging coffins can be found in many places in China, the strange thing is all of them only existed for a certain period in history. Those in Wuyi Mountain are the first appear in China, as early as in the Zhou Dynasty (1027-777BC) while those in Gongxian County of Southwest china’s Sichuan province are the most recent, which also marked the end of the hanging coffin custom.

Hanging Coffins of Bo People in Gongxian, Sichuan Provinve
Hanging Coffins of Guyue People in Dragon Tiger Mountain
Hanging Coffins of Guyue People in Wuyi Mountain

The mystery of hanging coffins

Why did the ancient people bury the dead in hanging coffins?

According to historical records, the Bo people believed “Coffins set high are considered auspicious. The higher they are the more propitious for the dead”. Also, after experiencing years of wars and natural disasters, the Bo people dreamed of going somewhere peaceful and quiet after their death. That is why they chose to rest their bodies on the precipices with the mountains and rivers around, all peaceful, beautiful and quiet. The Guyue people, on the other hand, held a high esteem for high mountains, and believed the higher the hanging coffin was placed; the better they could be protected.

How did the ancient people do it?

So how did the ancient people, including the Bo people and Guyue people, do it? This question once caused heated discussion among experts . Some believe the coffins were lowered down with ropes from the top of the mountain. Some ought the coffins were put in place with wooden stakes inserted into the cliff surface as artificial climbing aids. Others feel that earth ramps were the answer.

Cui Chen, a curator of the Yibin Museum, who examined the three different ways the coffins of the Bo people could have been put in place, has this to say:

“Earth ramps might have been used but experts discount this solution due to the amount of labor required, which would have been difficult in an underpopulated area. A timber scaffold supported on stakes in the cliff might have offered a plausible explanation but years of investigation have failed to find even a single stake hole. On balance the third option of lowering the coffins on ropes from above had always seemed feasible and now cultural specialists have found the telltale marks of the ropes which were used all these years ago. And so this part of the mystery of the hanging coffins has now been resolved.”
During the later years of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the imperial army cruelly oppressed the ethnic minority peoples of Southwestern China Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces. In particular, the Duzhangman and Bo Peoples fell victims of massacre. To escape their oppression, the Bo migrated to new locations. They hid their real names and assimilated with other ethnic groups. Like their culture they have disappeared but their descendents are still here for they are a part of us.
How the Guyue people hung the coffins onto the Fairy-water Rocks of Longhushan (Dragon TigerMountain) remains a mystery, since the hanging coffins are so dangerously located. Over the years, it has taken on a mystic air. Some people say the coffins were hung up with the aid from the immortals in the heaven, while others say there are invaluable treasures within the caves. Longhushan Administration Bureau once offered a 300,000 yuan ($US 36298) reward for solving the mystery, but so far no one has won the reward.

 

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11/20/14

Right-to-die advocate’s video released after death

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By Gosia Wozniacka

Nearly three weeks after her death, on what would have been her 30th birthday, Brittany Maynard returned to the national spotlight on Wednesday in a video (see below) in which she urges states to pass laws allowing terminally ill people to end their lives on their own terms.brittany_maynard_01

The video, made in August, was released by an advocacy group that worked with Maynard during the last months of her life in a campaign that prompted a national debate about allowing terminally ill people to hasten their deaths.

The group, Compassion & Choices, is hoping that the practice will be expanded beyond the five that already allow it: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico. But even though Maynard’s story received national attention, the groundswell of support on a legislative level for laws like Oregon’s has yet to materialize.

Compassion & Choices held a conference call with journalists on Wednesday, hoping to build on the momentum generated for the movement while Maynard was alive. After the news conference, the organization released a video that is partly narrated by Maynard.

In the video, Maynard says: “I hope for the sake of other American citizens … that I’m speaking to that I’ve never met, that I’ll never meet, that this choice be extended to you.”

The video includes photographs of Maynard before her illness. It also features the voices of other terminally ill patients and their family members.

In the conference call, Compassion & Choices officials said legislators in about a dozen states plan to introduce right-to-die laws next year.

Also on the call were legislators from Pennsylvania and Wyoming.

Rep. Mark Rozzi, a Pennsylvania Democrat whose 63-year-old father died of the same type of brain cancer as Maynard, said the young woman’s campaign and his family’s situation made it apparent why such bills are needed.

“I had to watch my father die of cancer… It was the most gut-wrenching experience our family and he had to endure,” Rozzi said. “He would always tell me this is not the way he wanted to live.”

A “death-with-dignity” bill was introduced in Pennsylvania last month. Rozzi conceded that it has been difficult getting bills out of the judiciary committee when they are opposed by the state’s Catholic leadership.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, a Wyoming Republican, said he plans to introduce such legislation in his state.

Oregon was the first state to allow terminally ill patients to die using lethal medications prescribed by a doctor. Maynard moved from California to Oregon to make use of the Oregon law.

The New Jersey Assembly passed a bill last week that would allow physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients, with some legislators citing Maynard’s story as a deciding factor in their vote. But Republican Gov. Chris Christie has said he opposes the measure.

In California, the West Hollywood City Council this week passed a resolution that urges the Los Angeles County District Attorney to not prosecute physicians and family members who offer aid in dying to the terminally ill. But the state has no current bills or ballot measures on the issue.

Some religious groups and social conservatives, including a Vatican official and the American Life League, have heavily criticized Maynard’s decision. Pope Francis denounced the right-to-die movement Saturday, saying the practice is a sin against God and creation and provides a “false sense of compassion.” He didn’t refer specifically to Maynard’s case.

Compassion & Choices said its website has had more than 5 million unique visitors during the past month, while Maynard’s two previous videos have been viewed more than 13 million times on YouTube alone.

“I sense immense momentum right now,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices. “Brittany Maynard is a new voice for a new generation of activists … she devoted her precious energy to help ensure other dying Americans would have a choice.”

Coombs Lee co-authored Oregon’s Death with Dignity law in 1993. She told KATU, “Brittany Maynard was 10 years old then. It’s an honor to carry on her legacy. It’s been 20 years of preparation for a witness like Brittany Maynard — to get this movement where it needs to be.”

Compassion and Choices said there may be more videos released. Maynard recorded countless hours of video in preparation for her death, and the movement she wished for.

A vigil to mark Maynard’s birthday is planned Wednesday night at the First Unitarian Church in downtown Portland. It begins at 6 p.m.
Complete Article HERE!

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11/18/14

Right-to-die advocate’s mom blasts Vatican remarks

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Brittany Maynard‘s mother is responding angrily to the Vatican’s criticism of Maynard’s decision to end her life early under an Oregon law written to let terminally ill patients die on their own terms.

Days after Maynard’s Nov. 1 death at age 29, the Vatican’s top bioethics official called her choice “reprehensible” and said physician-assisted suicide should be condemned.brittany-maynard

Maynard’s mother, Debbie Ziegler, issued a sharp written response Tuesday. She says the Vatican official’s comments came as the family was grieving and were “more than a slap in the face.”

Her response was made through Compassion & Choices, an advocacy group that Maynard worked with.

Maynard had brain cancer and used her story to speak out for the right of terminally ill people like herself to end their lives on their own terms. Some religious groups and social conservatives also have criticized her decision.

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11/16/14

Pope Francis denounces euthanasia as ‘sin against God’

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The Pope strongly condemns the ‘right to die’ movement, and warns against abortion, IVF and stem cell research

 (I would have felt better about this had he not conflated suicide, euthanasia and assisted dying.)

By Nick Squires
Pope Francis denounced the right to die movement on Saturday, saying that euthanasia is a sin against God and creation.francis

The Latin American pontiff said it was a “false sense of compassion” to consider euthanasia as an act of dignity.

Earlier this month, the Vatican’s top bioethics official condemned as “reprehensible” the death by assisted suicide of a 29-year-old American woman, Brittany Maynard, who was suffering terminal brain cancer and said she wanted to die with dignity.

“This woman (took her own life) thinking she would die with dignity, but this is the error,” said Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

“Suicide is … a bad thing because it is saying no to life and to everything it means with respect to our mission in the world and towards those around us,” he said, describing assisted suicide as “an absurdity”.

Ms Maynard took a lethal prescription provided by a doctor in Oregon under the state’s death-with-dignity law. She died on Nov 1 after leaving her family and friends a last message. She had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour earlier this year.

The Pope did not refer to the Maynard case specifically in his remarks, which were made to the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors.

The Catholic Church opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide, teaching that life starts at the moment of conception and should end at the moment of natural death.

The Pope also condemned in vitro fertilization, describing it as “the scientific production of a child” and embryonic stem cell research, which he said amounted to “using human beings as laboratory experiments to presumably save others.”

“This is playing with life,” he said. “Beware, because this is a sin against the creator, against God the creator.”

The Pope considers the assisted suicide movement as a symptom of a contemporary “throw-away culture” that views the sick and elderly as a drain on society.

Francis urged doctors to take “courageous and against-the-grain” decisions to uphold church teaching on the dignity of life.

Complete Article HERE!

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11/12/14

Hump Day Humor – 11/12/14

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Humor takes the sting away; it humanizes us; it helps us keep our perspective. Humor enriches us; it educates us; it brings us joy. Humor doesn’t dissolve the pain or make our life any less poignant, but it does help make things more bearable. That’s my philosophy, and I’m happy to share it with you on a weekly basis. I hope that if you enjoy what you see, you will take the opportunity to share it with others.

The secret life of death

the way he was

this way but once

the funeral director

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