Why Brittany Maynard?
I read the news on Sunday night: Brittany Maynard had taken her life as she said she was going to do on November 1st. I felt sad in the sense that this person was no longer alive, no longer in this world, so to speak. It was a horrible situation, and I had followed her story mostly through BlogHer and a People magazine article.
I went upstairs and Josh asked if I had heard yet that Brittany Maynard had died. I admitted that I was sad, but I added that I didn’t really know why. At least, I couldn’t put it into words. I didn’t know her; I don’t think I could name 10 facts about her. And certainly, she wasn’t the only person who died this weekend. Many more people died this weekend much closer to home. There were women who died here in Washington, D.C. and I didn’t feel sad, per se, about their death. I mean, yes, I felt sad in the sense that if I read about them, I would feel sad that someone’s life had ended. So why was Maynard’s death weighing heavier than all of those deaths? Why was her’s comment-worthy whereas the women who died in D.C. this weekend left the world without my knowledge?
Brittany Maynard isn’t the first person who utilized the Death with Dignity law. Since late 1997, over 700 people have used it. So it’s not a weekly occurrence, but close to it. About 41 per year. 6 of those people have been under 35. (The vast majority of the people using the law are much much older.) Why didn’t we hear about those 6? Was it because she was gorgeous? Because she was so young? Well-spoken? Willing to put her story out there? Were we just willing to listen because a young woman discussing the need for this law draws our attention more than a 70-year-old man? What does that say about us?
I am sad that Brittany Maynard is no longer in this world, even though I didn’t know her. I’m also sad that I don’t know the people who died in Washington, D.C. this weekend. That their deaths went unnoted in the newspaper unless their family placed an obit or their death was violent enough to make the crime section. I guess I am just sad, all-around.
Sad that life contains this: an ending.