By Amy Xia
Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman from California with terminal brain cancer, ended her life with physician prescribed medications last Saturday. She became the face of the Death with Dignity movement, with a viral video about her decision to die on her own terms. She worked closely with Compassion & Choices, an advocacy group that aims to promote patient choice at the end-of-life. Currently, only five states in the United States authorize death with dignity, including Oregon, where Maynard and her family moved.
Despite her terminal illness, an aggressive stage IV glioblastoma cancer, Maynard continued to live life fully, traveling extensively and surrounding herself with loving family and friends. She is survived by her husband and her parents. Ultimately, she made the choice to die with dignity in Portland, Oregon, surrounded by her loved ones. However, her decision has prompted both support and criticism for the medical procedure.
The Vatican official Ignacio Carrasco de Paula condemns assisted suicide and calls Brittany Maynard’s act ‘reprehensible,’ although Brittany was not a Catholic. Carrasco de Paula, who heads the Pontifical Academy for Life, defines dignity as “something other than putting an end to one’s own life.” He clarifies that it is the act— not the person— that is condemnable.
Who has the right to tell her that she does not deserve her choice to end her life? Should anyone have the right to make that choice for Brittany? If so, why and with what moral authority? Is the Vatican official right? What other arguments are compelling?