Brittany Maynard’s story continues to reverberate in California’s debate about assisted suicide. The 29-year-old woman with a lethal brain tumour moved to Oregon last year so that she could legally kill herself with the help of a physician. A superbly-crafted video of her desire to access assisted suicide (paid for by Compassion & Choices, America’s leading assisted suicide lobby group) went viral around the globe.
How about a 29-year-old Californian woman who made the exact opposite choice? Why isn’t her voice being heard? You really must watch her heart-wrenching video.
Doctors gave Stephanie Packer three years, three years ago, so she feels that she is doing well. But her suffering, both physical and psychological, is great.
Her disease is scleroderma, a hardening of tissue. In her case it has settled in her lungs. According to NPR, “Packer’s various maladies have her in constant, sometimes excruciating pain, she says. She also can’t digest food properly and feels extremely fatigued almost all the time.” However, she is buoyed up by the love and support of her four rambunctious children and her husband.
“Wanting the pain to stop, wanting the humiliating side effects to go away — that’s absolutely natural,” Packer says. “I absolutely have been there and I still get there some days. But I don’t get to that point of wanting to end it all, because I have been given the tools to understand that today is a horrible day, but tomorrow doesn’t have to be.”
In this terrific video you can see that her struggle to treat every minute as a precious gift has made Stephanie and her husband strong, and has made her children wise beyond their years. There is an excellent commentary from Dr Aaron Kheriaty, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Program in Medical Ethics at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine.
Unfortunately, there is a good chance that California will become the next American state to legalise assisted suicide. A bill passed in the State Senate by a vote of 23 to 14 on Thursday evening. SB-128 now moves to the State Assembly (the lower house). Governor Jerry Brown, who once trained as a Jesuit priest, has given no indication of how he will vote.
It is hard to tell what the outcome will be. Similar measures failed in 2005 and 2007. Opponents of the bill are determined to lobby hard against it. “This bill … tells people with disabilities who face a terminal diagnosis, that may well prove inaccurate, that there is no dignity in our lives,” says Marilyn Golden of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. “Assisted suicide is dangerous, and we are going to bring that message loud and clear to every member of the state Assembly and the governor.”