The Suicide of Brittany Maynard


Brittany Maynard plans to kill herself in the next seven days, hoping to “pass in peace.”

A life apart from God imagines that the here-and-now is the extent of human existence. This non-Christian philosophy both cheapens and ignores the hope the Bible proffers of eternity. Without an eternal perspective, difficult circumstances often lead to hopelessness, an emotion common to the human experience.

My home state of Oregon was the first in the world to officially provide government-sponsored suicide. A short time ago, Brittany Maynard moved herself and her family to Oregon to die on her own terms before her life becomes what she believes is a shameful and embarrassing dependence upon others for her most basic human needs. She was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor earlier this year. Who doesn’t feel deep sadness and compassion for her? This is a tragic story from every angle.

Suicide is about grasping for control over uncontrollable circumstances. Brittany will die with the help of the State of Oregon or of natural causes, but she will die one day – as will we all. Death is one of the few certainties of life.

This 29-year old doesn’t want to be remembered for what she may become in the final days of her suffering, but that suffering can be an example of humility, love, and grace. It’s also an opportunity for her family to demonstrate their unfailing love for her.

We live an a society that selfishly despises the thought of suffering, but in her death, this young woman will be remembered for who she is and how she lived – not the pain of her suffering. Neither suffering nor pain define who we are, but it certainly shapes who we are.

Mrs Maynard wants to die on her own terms. She wants to be in control until the very end. Suffering isn’t part of the plan she has for her life or her family – but suffering is a vital and very real part of the human experience … and of death. We pridefully think we “deserve” a certain kind of life or length of life, but every day of life is a gift to be appreciated and lived for what it is: good or bad, pleasure or pain, joy or sorrow. Living includes suffering and our suffering should never be thought of as a waste. Jesus, the Man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, didn’t count His suffering as wasted (Isaiah 53:3; Hebrews 12:2).

According to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether in life or by death (Philippians 1:20-21).

5 thoughts on “The Suicide of Brittany Maynard

  1. Priscilla

    If you read Brittany’s story you will see that her family has demonstrated their unfailing love for her by uprooting their lives to move with her. Her mother has agreed to care for her and stay by her side no matter what the circumstances: whether Brittany agrees to die naturally or on her own terms. Neither way will ease her family’s pain or sorrow.

    Brittany does not have to suffer to be an example of humility, love, and grace. She already is all of those things. Despising suffering is not selfish. No one wants to suffer (but we do) and when we can we alleviate that suffering. Some suffering is out of our control, but why suffer if you don’t have to? It doesn’t make one stronger, braver, more valiant than any one else. Religion teaches us that because Christ suffered so should we. This is a long held view by Christians. The people who are against what Brittany has decided are the religious who only feel worthy if they are suffering and feel they’re being Christlike when they do. I say that’s nothing but arrogance and self righteousness.

    Stop judging Brittany Maynard. Stop telling her how she should and should not feel or what she should and should not do or how she should view life. You are not in her shoes. If you want to suffer, then suffer, but let Brittany be one to decide what is best for her and her family.

    1. When Mrs Maynard took her story public, she opened her life and her choices to public review. No one I know has anything but the greatest of sympathy for her and for her family. We judge her decision no more than you judge ours for being Christians.

      As a father who held my dying 6-year old in my arms, I fully understand matters of life and death that we all face.

      We Christian believe that God has a greater and higher purpose for life than just this world. This is the reason Jesus came to die for sinful mankind. We pray that she, and all those in her shoes, find peace in this world and the one to come.

      There is not a person in this world who has not – and will not suffer, but her decision opens wider the door for anyone and everyone to murder themselves: the 12-year old whose first girl-friend dumps him; the father who loses the job he’s held all his adult life; the woman whose daughter steals to support her drug habit; the man sentenced to a jail term for fraud. Followers of Christ Jesus view suffering, rather than as a gateway to death, as a portal to added strength for the next challenge of life.

      Jesus came and gave His life that we might have life more abundantly. Through faith in Him, we possess a hope that transcends this world and its suffering.

  2. Tim

    AS A CHRISTIAN (and one who knows what it really means to be one, not just call myself one), I have to say your statement here is arrogant. She is not committing suicide. Suicide is killing oneself over a temporary problem. What this woman is doing is bypassing the slow, agonizing and horrendous process of dying. These would include Losing control of her body functions (needing a diaper), hallucinations, unrelenting pain unaffected by pain meds, loss of memory, dementia, and many other things. She wants to not only spare herself that turmoil, but spare her loving family the anguish of watching her deteriorate into a vegetable before passing. Her death is imminent, and approaching fast. She is only opting for a painless method instead of a painful one. To simply fall asleep and die peacefully and painlessly instead of languishing and wasting away.
    Does she know Christ? I don’t know. I certainly hope she does.
    I believe in a sacred sanctity of life. It must be protected, cherished, and defended. BUT, what if one’s life is nearing an excruciating end? Shouldn’t they be able to bypass the anguish and enter eternity peacefully?
    To be honest, if I were in her position, I’d probably be considering doing the same thing. (I live in Colorado. New Mexico, where this is legal is a short drive away)

  3. Elaine

    I agree with the first response. Britney has the right to choose ,,,, I don’t think that ending her life humanely is wrong. She will live her live to the fullest, and her decision was not made lightly. If we can help our pets not to suffer a long painful death,,,,why not help our fellow humans to not judge them and to let them leave this world perhaps a bit earlie,,,,but with less pain and suffering. Britney has suffered and is suffering with bad headaches and seisures,,,,with each week, she sufferes more. Even with euthanasia there is no easy way out of this world. Like I say we as humans should be merciful to each other in honoring each others personal choices in life and in death.

  4. As a pastor for 30 years, while most Americans have separated themselves from the suffering of death, I’ve sat at the bedsides of many as they’ve died. I’ve held their hands, stroked their hair, sang, prayed, and waited. Some feared death, while others feared the pain and uncertainty of death. None of them should have suffered; but here in lies one of the great truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Christianity has a different view of life, suffering, and death, than the world-at-large. We see a divine purpose in these “temporary” and “light afflictions” of all of life compared to what eternity brings.

    Those who read this blog on a regular basis know something of my past. I was raped until the age of 11 and then lived with night terrors for more than 20 years after. After a car accident 8 years ago, I’ve lived with the agony of brain trauma that leaves me without control of bodily functions, any memory, and could end my life at any time. Three years ago I lost my job, my career, and nearly everything I possessed because of a spiteful individual. Are any of these sufficient reasons to end my life?

    How much suffering is sufficient to warrant self-death?

    For you who are Christians – should the apostles have killed themselves rather than suffer the pains of martyrdom? The Reformers commit suicide rather than be burned at the stake for the truth of Scripture? Dietrich Bonhoffer and Corrie ten Boom taken their lives rather than suffer in the concentration camps for their faith in Christ and their opposition to the Nazi atrocities? Pope John Paul II insisted the debilitating effects of his Parkinson’s disease be lived out in public so others could see that suffering was not a pariah to be shunned.

    What of inspirational speakers Joni Eareckson Tada who became a quadriplegic, Dave Roever whose body was terribly deformed after a grenade he was holding in Vietnam exploded in his hand, or Nick Vujicic who was born without arms or legs but has learned to live on his own and minister to others facing extreme physical disadvantages?

    And what about our Lord Jesus? Surely the Father could have ordained a plan of redemption through death without His extreme suffering that left Him tortured beyond recognition as a human being at the cruel hand of the Roman Empire. Christ knew the suffering He would face – yet He faced it rather than take His own life by suicide.

    Suffering is not something anyone desires. No child grows up saying, “I can’t wait to suffer the pains of life!” But this is the reality in a sin-fallen world; yet there is hope beyond this world for those in the life of Jesus. The promised hope of Resurrection is the Christian answer to suffering. This is a hope those without Christ do not understand. This is a hope dearly held in the Judaic-Christian faiths for the past 4,000 years which has stood in opposition to suicide.

    More than 750 Oregonians have asked the State to facilitate their deaths since 1997. None of these people garnered world-wide (or even local) attention. None of these people are remembered for their suffering or their suicides. They each kept the private decision to end their lives private. Brittany Maynard made her choice public. While we all sympathize with her, we don’t all agree with her. Her suicide is not a question of “choice.” The legal ability to make this choice was granted to her by the voters of my home state. What we challenge is the morality of that decision.

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