Dignity gone to the dogs

Theresa Kiernan

“Would you kill Excalibur?”
Excalibur is the beloved dog belonging to the first Ebola victim outside West Africa. He was euthanized by the Spanish government in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading. It was unclear whether the dog contracted the virus or was contagious, according to The New York Times.
This act sparked intense outrage. According to the New York Times, more than 390,000 people signed a petition in an attempt to save Excalibur’s life (compared to 150,000 signatures for the FDA to expedite Ebola cure research).
In other news, Brittany Maynard announced to People Magazine her choice of a “dignified death.” This 29-year-old woman has Stage 4 glioblastoma, otherwise known as a terminal brain tumor. Knowing that painful and slow deterioration will be the end result, Maynard has moved to Oregon, where she has taken advantage of legislation allowing physicians to prescribe pills to kill terminally ill patients.
Maynard is planning to choose her own date of death and has determined that Nov. 1 will be her last day alive on earth.
A variety of people, 50 percent of whom have self-identified as religious, are in favor of this dignified death movement, according to Yahoo! Health.
I, personally, do not understand a terminally ill person’s experiences, but I must say that the juxtaposition of these two news stories was quite comical.
A dog that has been exposed to a virus receives media attention, pro-life rallies and over twice the signatures to spare its life as to find a cure for Ebola, the very virus that it may have, while a woman, who has a short window of life left, decides to declare her own date of death to the world, and people are supportive.
This does not make sense to me.
These stories bring many questions to mind. Why are people more concerned with a dog’s death than a cure for Ebola, going by the number of signatures collected? Why was the decision to kill Excalibur made in the first place; why not conduct studies, test his blood and find answers to understand how Ebola affects animals other than humans?
And as for Maynard, why is her death more acceptable than a dog’s death? Is this really a right people have, to choose when they want to die? If we are all going to die anyway, why is her decision to end her life different from my decision to end my life tomorrow? Is suicide an act or a desire? And is the process really less painful for the patient and her loved ones if she goes prematurely? Is it about resting in peace or control? And what are the long-term implications?
These are the hard questions I must ask in the wake of these stories. I am not sure how they can be answered, or if they have any answers. As for Excalibur, I understand the reasoning behind the decision, but I would have seen this as an opportunity to learn, not kill. With Maynard’s story, she seems to be redefining suicide as a desire, not an act. Is that true? I do not know whether we have the right to decide when we die. After all, we did not decide to be born.
Also, legislation like this could have negative consequences in the future. However, the most confusing to me is why one dog’s death is worth fight and outrage, even if it results in his slow and painful death, but a human’s is not. Is a dog’s life worth more?
I understand that there are numerous variables at stake. I believe one should take a step back and look at the stories, and ask what makes Excalibur’s death inconceivable and Maynard’s decision to die admirable.
Theresa Kiernan is a senior communication major from Bedford, New Hampshire.

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