On Dying and Compassion

Image via jessicakelley.com

Image via jessicakelley.com

Last week many of us were talking about end of life issues after we viewed Brittany Maynard’s heartbreaking video sharing her decision to take her own life in the face of her terminal illness and the prospect of terrible suffering ahead. This inspired a response from another woman, a Christian who is also dying of cancer, imploring Brittany to change her mind. There’s no denying that this topic brings up a lot of emotion and many questions.

We wanted to share the perspective of our friend Jessica Kelley. As most of you know, Jessica lost her four year old son to the same disease that is killing Brittany. Her voice is an important one to listen to on this topic. You don’t necessarily have to agree with her conclusions, but you’d be wise to take her wisdom into account when you’re discussing this topic with others.

Here’s an excerpt from Jessica’s blog post. We hope you’ll read the whole piece to get the full impact of her heart and her words.

Must Christians die without assistance?  We certainly don’t live without assistance.  We live with treatments and medications.  We schedule inductions to birth our babies and pencil-in C-sections.  Many of us, who wouldn’t think twice about intervening in the body’s other natural processes, draw a hard line at hastening certain death.  Yet don’t we blur that line when we sign “Do Not Resuscitate” orders when going into risky surgeries nearing the end of life?  When we chose not to prolong life, we are choosing to hasten death.

Yes, the line is hazy and I’ve seen it up-close.

There were grueling, debilitating treatments available to extend (somewhat) the days of our son’s life until his brain tumor brought death.  But after much prayer and deliberation, my husband and I chose hospice care instead.  We chose limited, high-quality time over extended, low-quality time.  So in that respect, we had a hand in the general timing of our child’s death.

And I am confident that we made the right decision for him.  It was courageous.  Anyone who boldly examines the options in front of them and has the fortitude to make a life and death decision does something utterly and undeniably courageous.

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