“Compassion” & “Choices”: Killing People and the English Language

I’m saddened to see the Brittany Maynard story plastered all over Facebook. It’s sad that a vibrant woman, not yet 30, has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It’s sadder that Ms. Maynard feels suicide is her best option. It’s perhaps saddest that “Compassion” & “Choices” is using the Maynard family’s crisis to promote its pro-death agenda.

Maynard and C & C are hoping to make suicide the latest viral sensation. The two are collaborating on a video project to garner support to legalize physician-assisted suicide in California. Aside from the ethical issues surrounding both suicide and involving doctors in its commission, I also object to C & C’s lobbying tactics.

In this People magazine article, Maynard is quoted as saying what she intends to do — that is, take a drug overdose, carefully measured to ensure death — does not make her suicidal. Excuse me, what? Intentionally killing one’s self is the very definition of suicide, and desiring to take that act would make one, again, definitionally suicidal.

Instead, I suspect, C & C would like us (and legislators, especially) to look upon Maynard’s plan as “death with dignity.” This relatively newly coined term has a more ambiguous definition than “suicide,” a definition that C & C surely hopes to shape, free of the ethical considerations — er, baggage — suicide brings. I’d call that the very definition of deceptive.


Dead Meat in the Street

Last week, one of Indy’s top news stories was that a wheelchair user was struck and killed by a car. Numerous posts on my Facebook feed contained a gory photo of an empty wheelchair, on its side, in the middle of the road.

I was annoyed that the victim wasn’t mentioned by name or gender in initial reports. Sure, I understand that a victim’s family must rightfully be notified before the public. But to take away any identifying characteristics strips away her humanity. Yet the media did not wait for more information; instead, we saw a pool of blood under some mangled metal. If the media can’t get inspiration porn out of someone with a disability, I guess it’s happy to settle for a torture porn still.

Fortunately, I didn’t read any comments from trolls arguing that the woman was in the wrong. Some people were genuinely saddened at the loss, and suggested devoting more funding to improving sidewalks. I suppose the sidewalks to the bus stop could be paved with good intentions.

No wheelchair user I know believes sidewalks are Indy’s biggest transportation barrier. Nor will an expanded bus system do much to improve city access. We need legitimate mass transit, a light rail system. I can’t help but wonder if having such an option would have led to one less fatality statistic.