Brittany Maynard was lauded internationally–at A-list movie star decibels–because she committed suicide rather than face the difficulties of terminal brain cancer.
But 19-year-old Lauren Hill–also with terminal brain cancer–received far more subdued coverage.
You see, Hill was deemed less newsworthy than Maynard by our increasingly tabloid and subversive media:
- Hill wasn’t transgressive. She intended to live with cancer until she died–play basketball, and raise money for research,
- Maynard used her time to promote hastened death.
- Hill told the world that hospice allowed her continue living with terminal illness.
- Maynard rejected hospice and told the world that poison pills were a proper way to end terminal illness.
- Hill pushed life with dignity.
- Maynard pushed death with dignity.
Hill’s extraordinary life has now come to a natural end. From the CNN story:
“I never gave up for a second, even when I got a terminal diagnosis, never thought about sitting back and not living life anymore,” she told CNN affiliate WKRC-TV at the time. She had already committed to play for Mount St. Joseph when she was diagnosed. In October, the school received permission from the NCAA to move up its schedule so Hill could play.
Yes, Hill received some attention, and she deserved every i-dot and t-cross of the coverage she received.
But note the contrast: Hill wasn’t a People cover story. Hill received a mild People obit. Maynard’s death notice was written in Klieg lights.
Hill’s family won’t receive continuing laudatory stories in that magazine months later, People still covers Maynard, even making her husband a cover story.
CNN didn’t name Hill an “extraordinary person” of the year as they did Maynard, or repeatedly feature her as a top story. Oprah didn’t interview her family.
Hill had true dignity. Yet, everyone knows who Brittany Manyard was. Far fewer know Lauren Hill’s name.
That awful dichotomy reminds me of how everyone knew who Jack Kevorkian’s was, but few the great medical humanitarian, Dame Cecily Saunders, the founder of hospice. Yet she alleviated more suffering than can ever be quantified.
In a nutshell, the contrasting stories of Maynard and Hill–two women tragically cut down in their primes by cancer–tell us so much about what has gone profoundly wrong in our times.