Brittany Maynard’s mother is angry. Debbie Ziegler, whose 29-year-old daughter Brittany committed suicide rather than face the uncertain death with terminal brain cancer, reacted to a statement issued by the Vatican following Brittany’s unfortunate act, by issuing a statement of her own.
Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, had called her death “reprehensible” and said that physician-assisted suicide should be condemned.
Mrs. Ziegler, for her part, called the Vatican statement “more than a slap in the face.” In a statement signed “Brittany’s Momma” on the Compassion and Choices website, an assisted suicide support site, Ziegler defended Brittany’s choice and lauded the culture of death. She wrote:
The “culture of cure” has led to a fairy tale belief that doctors can always fix our problems. We have lost sight of reality. All life ends. Death is not necessarily the enemy in all cases. Sometimes a gentle passing is a gift. Misguided doctors caught up in an aspirational belief that they must extend life, whatever the cost, cause individuals and families unnecessary suffering. Brittany stood up to bullies. She never thought anyone else had the right to tell her how long she should suffer. The right to die for the terminally ill is a human rights issue. Plain and simple.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a helpful statement on physician-assisted suicide, “To Live Each Day With Dignity.” In it, they explain why the Catholic Church opposes assisted suicide. In conclusion, the statement explains:
Catholics should be leaders in the effort to defend and uphold the principle that each of us has a right to live with dignity through every day of our lives. As disciples of one who is Lord of the living, we need to be messengers of the Gospel of Life. We should join with other concerned Americans, including disability rights advocates, charitable organizations, and members of the healing professions, to stand for the dignity of people with serious illnesses and disabilities and promote life-affirming solutions for their problems and hardships. We should ensure that the families of people with chronic or terminal illness will advocate for the rights of their loved ones, and will never feel they have been left alone in caring for their needs. The claim that the “quick fix” of an overdose of drugs can substitute for these efforts is an affront to patients, caregivers
and the ideals of medicine.
When we grow old or sick and we are tempted to lose heart, we should be surrounded by people who ask “How can we help?” We deserve to grow old in a society that views our cares and needs with a compassion grounded in respect, offering genuine support in our final days.
The choices we make together now will decide whether this is the kind of caring society we will leave to future generations. We can help build a world in which love is stronger than death.