Media ‘Applaud’ Brittany Maynard’s ‘Ethical’ Choice to Die

It’s a sad excuse for what should be a saddening obituary.

Twenty-nine-year-old Brittany Maynard tragically chose to end her life on Nov. 2, after being diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of terminal brain cancer. Having moved to Oregon from California, she took advantage of the state’s Death with Dignity Act, in which a physician can legally supply fatal medication.

When the news broke that Maynard died, media flocked to “applaud” her “ethical” and “moral” choice.

In remembrance of Maynard, online news outlets began by heralding her with the “Death with Dignity advocate” euphemism – in their online headlines – including ABCNBCCBSCNNThe Huffington PostBustleDaily News and Raw Story.

But the outlets had much more to add than that. Writing for NBC online, Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University's Langone Medical Center, argued that Maynard’s death “was an ethical choice” and that she “did nothing immoral when she took a lethal dose of pills.”

Caplan began by listing the “main arguments” against assisted suicide:

That it is not our place to decide when we will die — only God should do so; that allowing assisted suicide will inevitably lead to abuses, especially of the poor and disabled; that there are better choices for the dying in the form of hospice and palliative care, and that doctors should not kill.

He concluded: “None of these arguments is persuasive.”

For Caplan, “The argument that only God may decide when we die is not one that I consider consistent with the view that God created us with free choice.” “To see God as having to work through respirators, kidney dialysis and heart-lung machines to decide when you will die,” he continued, “is to trivialize the divine.”

He likened Maynard’s choice with other issues. “If they [millennials] engage the subject as they did laws banning the use of marijuana and gay marriage, then Brittany may well have the legacy she wanted — greater access for others to the choice she made for herself,” he finished.

Also referencing God, Rev. Chuck Currie, a chaplain at Pacific University, explained in The Huffington Post that “Brittany Maynard Made A Moral Choice.”

“Unimaginable human suffering need not precede eternal life. Jesus sought to end suffering. It is difficult to hear a Christian extol suffering as a virtue,” he said.

Also for The Huffington Post, Alana Horowitz deemed Maynard an “an outspoken advocate for patients' rights” and “a champion for the law and for patients in her situation.”

Going one step further, The New York Post’s Andrea Peyser wrote, “We should applaud terminally ill woman’s choice to die.” In “awe” of Maynard, Peyser continued:

I am overcome with sadness, but also with joy. For Maynard accomplished something both brave and rare. She died on her own terms. She beat the Grim Reaper at his own game.

“Life is precious. She knew that,” Peyser concluded.

Although she recognized both sides of the Maynard debate, The Washington Post’s Lindsey Bever composed her headline to read, “How Brittany Maynard may change the right-to-die debate.” Maynard “inspired a community of supporters,” she noted inside.

Time’s Dan Hirschhorn recognized “the new face of the right-to-die movement” and her “eloquence.” The “right to die” terminology also appeared in a piece for Newsweek and in a piece for NPR.

In another NPR piece, Maynard surfaced as “a beautiful anomaly.” Nancy Shute wrote about another case where a psychology professor with cancer who died “wrote eloquently about the process” and on “his frustration that his family and doctors seemed to value quantity of life over quality.”

As far as the networks, ABC’s Dean Schabner recognized Maynard as “the face of the death with dignity movement” and “a passionate advocate for people with terminal illnesses.”

NBC’s Bill Riggs wrote, “Along the way, Maynard — and her choice — became the talk of the nation as she campaigned for a newfound passion, ‘death with dignity.’”

HLN’s Jonathan Anker explained that Maynard “is being remembered around the world for both the courage she displayed and inspiration she provided.” 

In other news spheres, feminist site Bustle’s Kathryn Kattalia called Maynard “a powerful voice for the Death with Dignity Act” who “fought bravely for terminally ill patients to have the right to die on their own terms.”

Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton also recognized the “courageous” woman, saying, “We have no doubt that her gorgeous life and activism will leave a profound mark on the world.”

Katie Yoder
Katie Yoder
Katie Yoder is Associate Culture Editor, the Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow at Media Research Center