Lizz Lovett could choose to take her own life. As an Oregon resident stricken with advanced stage kidney cancer, Lovett could lawfully utilize Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act to end her life prematurely through euthanasia.
This path, chosen by many, was recently launched to the media forefront by Brittany Maynard’s choice to end her own life last year when diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
When a surgical procedure last spring failed to remove Lovett’s cancer, the wife and mother of four chose a different path.
“My life is not a story written by cancer – it’s written by love,” she said. With the help of friend Chris Stefanick, Lovett and her husband, Ryan, released a video documenting her courageous experience.
“I think [Stefanick] saw we still lived joyful lives, and that cancer didn’t define who we are,” Lovett said. “He said he was struck by the dramatic juxtaposition between our life – taking each day as a gift for us to give and receive – and Ms. Maynard’s, where she appeared to want control, by taking her own life.”
“While many of us do not agree on how to think about euthanasia, I do think many of us can still be touched by beauty,” Lovett said. “And from that common experience, I hope we can reconnect how we think about the world and – perhaps – be persuaded to be open in a new way to life.”
Many members of Lovett’s family still hold to the “pro-choice” viewpoint that death by euthanasia is a lawful right. Lovett hopes her story can reach out to them and others faced with this difficult deliberation.
Suffering, Lovett argues, is not the problem.
“I hope people will see there can be great joy and love in suffering, and great joy and love can come from it too,” Lovett said. “The stuff of life that has the most meaning – the opportunities for grace, the moments of littleness, humility and weakness that can be made into something so powerful through faith – are in danger of being snuffed out, removed before they even have a chance to occur.”
Lovett believes true dignity is found in living each and every day with love. Finding strength in her faith, Lovett continues to appreciate the time she has left with her family with new perspective.
“Life, indeed, is short,” she said. “And of course, everyone is going to die. I just have a better idea than most of when that may be. I think it is blessing in some ways to have that clarity as I live life each day.”
Her children – aged 2 to 7 – and her husband, remain consistent blessings. Lovett names Ryan as her “backbone of strength.” And Lovett is grateful for the outpouring of support that friends and community members have showered on her family.
“By ending my life prematurely, I lose the opportunity to love, and to be loved,” Lovett said. “We are all in each other’s lives for a reason. This is our journey, something we do together. When we feel the pressure – whether interiorly or from outsiders, subtly or otherwise – to just end it all because we are inconvenient, nothing could be further from the truth. It is through this suffering that our faith grows, our love grows, and the world is transformed, one relationship at a time.
“I hope people will learn not to confuse an undignified circumstance with a lack of real dignity. I hope people will learn not to confuse pain with suffering. That people will see that what gives our lives greatest meaning is not feeling good, but being good: feeling good is not compatible with suffering, but being good is.
“And since the issue of euthanasia is not going away, I wanted my voice to be heard – to offer a truthful witness to what death with dignity really means.”