Tag Archives: euthanasia

Brittany Maynard, Starlings & the Body of Christ

October 11, 2014



Brittany Maynard’s story was covered in media all over the country.  If you haven’t heard, it is the story of a 29 year old woman diagnosed with brain cancer who has decided to take her own life.  By all accounts; the news, social media, and the medical community see this as a good thing and the pro-Euthanasia group Compassion and Choices (Formerly the Hemlock Society) is using this press to get more political clout to change the laws in more states to allow for mercy killing. The story painted in these reports is very easy to enter into with misguided compassion.  Brittany has been told by experts that her type of cancer is a terrible way to die and she plans to take her own life by a doctor prescribed drug on November 1, just 2 days after her husband’s birthday. The video that accompanies her story contains her testimony as well as that of her husband and parents.  It seems they are all in agreement that this is the right thing to do.
As I read this report I know their is something missing in this story.  Of course – I could site examples when people have been cured of incurable diseases. I could point out the slippery slope of euthanasia where it has become legal like Belgium where now children of any age can make the choice to be euthanized and diagnoses such as depression can be deemed a medical reason to assist them in suicide.  I could point out the lack of understanding about redemptive suffering.  A teaching of our faith that very few – even the faithful can understand. Or I could point out how this is selfish to deny others of being with her – and her time left on earth. The open letter by Kara Tippets – herself a woman dying of cancer addresses much of what is missing in this story of Brittany.

We have heard from Brittany’s perspective and her parents and her husband but the story not being told is the story from our Heavenly Father’s point of view. We do not know God’s plan.  The hardest words for me to say in the prayer the Our Father is “Thy will be done.” Who is to say that God’s plan doesn’t include a conversion of heart of those around her through caring for Brittany in her last natural hours of life on earth? Who is to say that her life will not have meaning to others? Who is to say that God’s plan and communion with Brittany is finished on this side of the veil?   We tend to think our stories are about us but in reality it is the bigger story of God’s great plan that we need to keep in mind. In our small minds we loose sight of God’s larger plan just because we cannot comprehend it.  We think because we don’t know why, then it cannot be.

A priest once reminded me that our lives are not about “me and God.” Sure – we need that personal relationship with Christ but our lives and the teaching about our faith is that it is about “US and God.” Our understanding of the Eucharist and heaven is about how we are all together – we move together  and when one person is lost it effects us all.
I recently saw a U-Tube video of a group of starlings flying together with perfect accuracy. They moved together as if they are of one mind, as if they are being controlled by something outside of themselves, as if they were being panted on canvas by a great artist.  In researching how these birds move I found out that each bird is in communion with six other birds.  They interact with those around them to synchronize their movements.  Scientists have been able to discern how the birds move together in unison but as of yet, they do not know why.  We don’t know why, but it certainly can be.

This image of swarming starlings has become an analogy for me of the Body of Christ.  I am not at all surprised that the number of birds bound with each other is seven. Seven- like our seven sacraments that bind us together.


I have little hope that this young woman will change her mind. Many have said, “Let Brittany die with dignity. It is her choice.” But when even one of us falls it effects us all.


Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31


Take a few moments and contemplate the Body of Christ as you watch this video of starlings swarming.  Wonder at God’s great plan.

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Goodbye, Dr. Kevorkian

July 11, 2011


To Dr. Kevorkian,

CNS Photo/ Jim West

I wish your heart would have turned toward Truth. 130 lives were lost due to your assistance. Sometimes your patients died in the back of a Volkswagen van which was souped up with your lethal intravenous cocktails. You committed brutal acts against human dignity and only served seven years and two-and-a-half months in jail.

You claim that at The University of Michigan Med School, where you studied pathology, the Hippocratic Oath wasn’t discussed. This document describes ethical behavior for physicians: “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect” and, “Above all, I must not play at God.”

You were a “break-away” physician as described by Yolly Eileen A. Gamatan R.N.:

Breaking away from the traditional medical covenant of respect for life, new segments of medical professionals have reversed the end for which the science of medicine was founded, which is to heal and save lives. In their hands, the science of medicine has become instrumental for ending lives by abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide. Lamentably, these break-away physicians have become instruments of death.

Life is a Gift

60 percent of your victims were NOT terminally ill, but lonely and depressed. Zenit.org reported, “persons who were divorced or had never married were overrepresented among those who died with Kevorkian’s help, suggesting the need for a better understanding of the familial and psycho-social context of decision-making at the end of life.”

The Most Reverend Father Peter Laird says:

We can never directly intend to kill an innocent human being.  In the case of assisted suicide, this simple truth acknowledges not only that life is a gift to be received, stewarded and fostered, but also that human beings are moral agents who are to do good and avoid evil.  Issues of depression and patient concerns for pain which often attend requests for assistance to die only reaffirm the truth that human beings who suffer terminal illness and/or great pain deserve our care, accompaniment and support.

Four Gifts of Hospice

Dr. Death, I wish you could have been more like my dad’s fishing buddy, Dr. Wayne Thaluber, who is a member of Assumption Parish and a retired internist. He is your antithesis and embraces life. For 42 years, Dr. Thalhuber worked at Our Lady of Good Counsel (Now called Our Lady of Peace Home), which is a hospice– meaning the staff specializes in the end of life. Their motto is: A spiritual place where patients and their families spend their final time together in peace and comfort.

Dr. Thalhuber said, “We fulfilled this statement by focusing on the whole patient. We’d work as a team to promote growth; to see the positive beauty at the end.”

 He explained to me that each patient’s family is guided through the Four Gifts of Hospice:

  1. Saying  “I’m sorry.”
  2. Saying “I love you.”
  3. Saying “Thank you.”
  4. Saying “Good bye…I’ll be okay.”

Dr. Thalhuber stated, “These gifts are very powerful. The family becomes a part of the goal. Hospice doesn’t merely focus on pain control, but treats the family’s relationships.”

Some Thoughts

HBO produced a movie called You Don’t Know Jack, starring Al Pacino, Susan Sarandon and John Goodman.  At the premier you had the honor to walk down the red carpet. Mr. Pacino received an Emmy and a Golden Globe award. In his acceptance speech he stated, that it was a pleasure “portraying someone as brilliant and interesting and unique as Dr. Jack Kevorkian.” (sodahead.com)

Your “artwork” is sold in galleries.  Their grotesque scenes echo a horror film with decapitations and skulls.  I heard you sometimes painted with your own blood; as in the likeness you created of a child eating the flesh of a decomposing body.

I like to think that your mother, having fled the Armenian Genocide of 1915, must have had respect for human life. How is it that such a hard-earned lesson was lost on you?  Didn’t she have you learn the fifth Commandment: Thou shall not kill? Did she ever teach you to respect the sick and dying by taking flowers to someone in the hospital or by mowing the lawn of an aged neighbor?

Last Breath of Life

“I learned about life from my dying patients and it was a privilege to witness this intimacy,” recalled Dr. Thalhuber –who did take the Hippocratic Oath, by the way, at St. Louis University Medical School in 1964. “I grew spiritually and professionally from my patients and their families because we discussed many more important things than just the weather and ballgames.”

And then The Good Doctor delivered one of my favorite points, “The end of life is one of the stages of living. There is a lot of potential for growth up until the last breath, and Dr. Kevorkian’s patients missed out on this beautiful gift.”


(I’d like to thank The Catholic Spirit staff for its guidance in getting this blog started. Also, I’d like to express my gratitude to Cecelia MacDonald, a professional editor and writer, for editing my work–You’re the best, Mom! Ditto to my sons for their technical expertise.)

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