After a long absence, I'm back. Life has been a little crazy the past couple of years and this blog page has languished too long. Some recent cases being covered in the Media, as well as an increased awareness of end-of-life have inspired me to pick it up and carry on...
This evening I was watching PBS's NewsHour, and a discussion about end of life and the case of Brittany Maynard, who has decided to legally end her life. Like I said before I have mixed feelings about this case. But aside from the larger moral-ethical issues, I had a strong response to something Barbara Coombs Lee said when speaking on Brittany's behalf. She referred the dying process as "inhuman" and "dehumanizing". No. A natural disease process is not removing a person's humanity. Dying is often a stripping away in a progression toward a spiritual transition, but suffering is a part of it... until the part that's human is left behind. I've seen just how awful it can be, but it is not contrary to our humanity. Suffering is not only part of life, it defines what it means to be human. I'm reminded of Captain Kirk famously stating, a little too overdramatically, "I need my pain." But it's true.
The Buddha taught that "all of life is suffering". Jesus' life was about suffering. Indigenous people still engage in spiritual practices that involve symbolic suffering. Nearly every spiritual tradition has suffering at its core. Why? Because to suffer IS to be human. It's terrible. It's gut-wrenching. It sucks!!! But it IS human.
To ease suffering is also human.
To be afraid of suffering is human.
I don't condemn Brittany for her choice. It would not be my choice, but I honor her right and do believe others should have that right. But before we do that we need to make many more strides toward increasing access to quality hospice and palliative care, which can ease suffering and increase quality of life until the last breath. Natural, human death with dignity is possible. I see it every day.