Bioethics Blogs

A Tale of Two Friends

I am thinking of two friends from church with advanced cancer, both men about my age, 60-ish.

One has a high-grade brain tumor, persistent after standard therapy and more than one experimental new treatment.  He’s a fighter, looking for something new to try.  He’s an ex-Marine, famously fit at baseline, willing and able to tolerate some toxicity.  He also tells me that he is trusting Christ more than ever, and his devotional life is stronger than ever.  Although he’s pretty stoic, his tears up easily, in part because of the effects of his disease on his emotional processing, in part because having the illness seems to have brought him low.  In his younger days, he published some papers on bioethics—on end-of-life issues.

The other one has colon cancer, metastatic to his liver.  After the disease grew despite multiple tries at chemotherapy that, frankly, just made him sicker, he stopped active treatment of his tumor and started home hospice with the best current palliative care available.  On that, his condition has improved, and he’s done well for the better part of a year.  But he is in pain, some days worse than others.  He’s candid but reserved about his experience, also stoic.  He tells me to “keep working on miracles.”  (I work in clinical development of experimental drugs for cancer.)  I tell him there is only One miracle worker.  And, to his and my shock and outrage, some people have actually gone to him and asked him whether he would consider assisted suicide.

By the way, both of their wives are stalwarts, even heroic, IMHO.

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.