Facing terminal brain cancer, Brittany Maynard recently chose to end her own life “by taking a fatal dose of barbiturates,” People reports. Maynard had moved to Oregon to take advantage of a law there allowing assisted suicide in some cases.
Predictably, the Catholic Church denounced Maynard’s decision. Pope Francis called assisted suicide “playing with life” and “a sin against the creator.” Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, called Maynard’s decision “reprehensible” and said, “Killing yourself is not a good thing; it’s a bad thing because it says no to life and to all that means in relation to our duty in the world and to those close to us.”
In short, leaders of the Catholic Church (and many other religions) see your life not as yours, but as God’s or society’s, and hold that you have a moral duty to stay alive for God or for others, even if you face unspeakable suffering and impending death due to terminal illness.
These religionists are wrong. Your life belongs to you, not to any alleged deity or to other people. You have no “duty” to live for—or suffer for—the sake of others.
Although individuals with terminal illnesses and the like should, for their own selfish sake, consider all the values life potentially has to offer before making a decision such as Maynard’s, individuals have a moral right to decide for themselves whether their lives are worth continuing. Government has no moral right to forcibly interfere with a person’s choice to take his own life, or to forcibly prevent others from assisting in that choice (within a legal system that bans initiatory force and fraud).
All the evidence indicates that, far from not taking her life seriously—“playing with life,” as the Pope puts it—Maynard made a thoughtful decision based on the full context of her values and knowledge. Her death was tragic, but she could not avert it; she could only control its course and timing and thereby minimize her own suffering.
If anyone is not taking human life and its requirements seriously, it is the Pope and company. Driven by their mythology-based dogma, they apparently could not care less about a human being’s life, what it consists of, and whether it is good, bad, or intolerable. For them, all of that is irrelevant. They welcome human suffering in the name of “duty.” Theirs is a sin against man.