Jane Smith and Brittany Maynard were diagnosed with the same type of terminal brain cancer. Maynard chose to end her life by committing physician-assisted suicide on Nov. 1, 2014. Smith received palliative care and died naturally. Proponents of physician-assisted suicide claimed that Maynard had a “death with dignity”. However, Smith’s family insists her long yet natural death was truly dignified.
“I wouldn’t give those last moments with my mom up for anything in the world,” her daughter, Miranda, said. “I feel like it takes a lot more strength to keep going. When I think of someone who is strong, and in the midst of that hardship, I think of my mom right away. She was so strong during it all.”
Smith’s family said that although it was hard to see her suffer, they know she made the right choice by dying naturally.
“It might have seemed easier not going through it. I definitely think it would have been easier not to deal with all that. But it’s not better,” Miranda said.
Smith’s son, Chris, recalled difficult times with his mother, including watching her suffer seizures during a family trip. However, he also said that his mother was able to see his 21st birthday, and that taking care of her was a gift.
“Me being able to spend that time with her, and her being able to see her family one last time, I feel like those are moments you can’t have back, and those are moments you don’t know are going to happen, but you would wish you did have,” Chris said.
Jane entered palliative care, or care designed to help people in the last stages of natural death.
Kevin Lundry is the CEO of Divine Mercy Supportive Care, a Catholic Palliative Care group endorsed by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila.
“It’s contentious, because both sides are being compassionate in saying, ‘we don’t want people to suffer.’ They don’t want people to suffer; we don’t want people to suffer. It’s just how we get to that point of alleviating the suffering that is where the questions really should lay,” Lundry said.
“Yes, it’s going to be difficult, but the loss from the suicide far outweighs any degree of burden that exists from the journey. The journey of a dying person is actually a beautiful experience…but because we fear death as a culture, we don’t want to go there.”
Lundry also warned against the burden physician-assisted suicide leaves with the family, by causing them to wonder what part they played in their loved one’s death for the rest of their lives.
“That’s more powerful than the burden, if you will, of allowing mom to die in peace with a support team around her,” Lundry said.
Miranda Smith said her mother always put her family before her own comfort.
“In the end, she always thought of me before herself and always tried to comfort me,” Miranda said.
Her father said moments like that were part of what made palliative care so beautiful.
“The little things like that are so valuable and worth it, that even if the person is sick and suffering, there’s so much meaning to it,” Jeff said.
Palliative Care events
Gospel of Life Conference
Oct. 24, 2015 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Church of the Risen Christ 3060 S Monaco Pkwy, Denver, CO 80222
40 Days for Life
Sept. 23-Nov. 1