Man With Brain Cancer Now Doubtful About Euthanasia

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by David Nussman  •  •  October 2, 2017   

Brain tumor patient glad to still be alive

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DETROIT ( - A California man who has survived a brain tumor for over two years is thankful that he did not "die with dignity."

In a Friday op-ed for The Washington Post, Jeffrey Davitz, a Silicon Valley innovator specializing in artificial intelligence, shares his battle with a brain tumor and his previous plans to commit doctor-assisted suicide. His previous endorsement of this practice is now being reconsidered in light of his unexpected turn for the better.

We do not need assisted suicide legislation. What we need is a nuanced discussion of end-of-life issues and options.

Davitz was diagnosed in April 2015 at the age of 55 with advanced-stage brainstem glioblastoma multiforme, which he calls "one of the most lethal and aggressive brain tumors." A few months later in October 2015, his home state of California passed a bill, legalizing physician-assisted suicide. 

Davitz immediately made plans for assisted suicide with a doctor. His plans were ruined by an oversight. Unbeknownst to him, the new law would not take effect until June 2016. Expected to die several months sooner, Davitz decided to try waiting until it was legal but also made "extralegal" plans to kill himself as a backup.

Initially, Davitz felt certain he was going to take his own life as soon as things got too painful. But as time passed, he started having second thoughts. "There were things I still wanted to do," he recalls, "like seeing my daughter's high school graduation. I was ready to go, I thought, and yet I was conflicted."

Then something incredible happened. The tumor stopped progressing and some symptoms went away. Davitz made a partial return to his normal life and got booted from end-of-life care.

"I was an unusual hospice member," he explains. "Eventually the program kicked me out, designating me a 'hospice graduate,' a label that I still find funny."

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Now Davitz is glad that he did not end his life. "I celebrated my brother's 60th birthday with him, attended my daughter's graduation, saw my parents hit their 72nd wedding anniversary and fell into a kind of life pattern," he remarks.

Despite his experience, Davitz still endorses the legality of physician-assisted suicide, albeit with less surety. "I still believe in the fundamental right of self-determination through self-termination, but I now feel the weight of its complexity and uncertainty," he says.

Pro-lifers, however, argue that no amount of pain can outweigh the dignity of human life. In an August 16 blog post reprinted by, William Peace blasted euthanasia advocates for "ableist bigotry." 

Paralyzed since he was 18, Peace argued, "We do not need assisted suicide legislation. What we need is a nuanced discussion of end of life issues and options."

Wesley J. Smith made a similar point in a recent First Things article, where he declares, "If a society is judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable members, we will reject the let's-kill-Alzheimer's-patients agenda out of hand and focus on improving our capacities to care."


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