“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.