Tale of two dying persons Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

How sad it was to hear of the death of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old woman who ended her own life on November 1 using Oregon’s assisted suicide law.

Maynard suffered greatly from terminal brain cancer, and we can understand her wish to stop her pain and suffering.

More hopeful path

However, the story of another young person who is also facing death shows, I believe, a more hopeful way to face death.

A  Catholic News Service article reported on Philip Johnson, a 30-year-old Catholic seminarian in the Diocese of  Raleigh, N.C., who is facing the same disease as Maynard. He wrote a poignant essay in October responding to Maynard’s decision to end her own life.

Johnson called her story heartbreaking and one “that really hit home,” because he was 24 years old when doctors told him he had inoperable brain cancer. He called it a miracle he has lived longer than expected.

Terrified but not alone

Johnson is terrified about the expected progression of the disease. “I still cry. I still beg God to show me his will through all of this suffering and to allow me to be his priest if it be his will, but I know that I am not alone in my suffering.”

Johnson added, “I have my family, my friends, and the support of the entire universal Church. I have walked in Brittany’s shoes, but I have never had to walk alone. Such is the beauty of the Church, our families, and the prayerful support that we give to one another.”

Medical profession should step up

I think that the medical profession also should provide more guidance and support for patients with severe and terminal illnesses. A recent survey shows that a third of medical professionals lack confidence in talking about end-of-life care. Only 12 percent have routine discussions about the end of life, reported National Public Radio. Often people are not told about palliative care (treating pain) or hospice care.

I hope more terminally ill people will opt for Johnson’s path: to accept the love and support of family and friends, to live each day to the fullest, to get treatment for pain and suffering, and not to give up hope that God will call them home in His time.