Physician assisted suicide (PAS) is in the news in a way that is different than before. It is not because it is election time and a state has a ballot initiative about legalizing PAS. It is because a 29 year old woman with an aggressive malignant brain tumor, Brittany Maynard, has chosen to use PAS to end her life and chosen to do it very publicly by using her story to promote the legalization of PAS in a video about her choice produced in cooperation with the euthanasia advocacy group Compassion and Choices.
The video focuses on her desire to be autonomous. She states very clearly that she wants to be in control of the circumstances of her death and that she considers it her right to choose the manner of her death. There is no denying that PAS can be seen as the ultimate act of autonomy. The question is whether insisting on our own autonomy and being in control is what is morally right. God has given us the ability to make choices and he allows those choices to have real effect, but that does not mean that all choices are good. We can at times exercise our autonomy in ways that are not good. We can be prideful or controlling or self-centered. I say we because I am not saying that this particular person’s choice necessarily involved those wrong motives. It is simply that as fallen human beings our autonomous choices often involve those things and are wrong. One hint of what underlies Brittany Maynard’s choice is found in the section of the video in which her mother begins to cry when she talks of her daughter convincing her to take a trip to Machu Picchu where the mother is afraid to go by telling her that she will meet her there.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.