Mother says Vatican criticism of daughter's Oregon assisted suicide hurtful

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 18, 2014 7:07 PM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - The mother of a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer who took advantage of Oregon's assisted suicide law to end her life said on Tuesday that the Vatican deeply wounded her by unfairly calling into question her daughter's decision.

Debbie Ziegler, the mother of Brittany Maynard who ended her life at her Portland home on Nov. 1 by taking a fatal dose of medication, wrote on the website of Compassion & Choices, an organization that supports assisted suicide and worked with Maynard in the final weeks of her life.

Three days after Maynard's death, Vatican bioethics official Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Italian news agency Ansa that assisted suicide was an "absurdity" as he discussed her case.

An official from Compassion & Choices that day responded that Maynard was not Catholic. On Tuesday, Ziegler added her voice to the debate.

"People and institutions that feel they have the right to judge Brittany's choices may wound me and cause me unspeakable pain, but they do not deter me from supporting my daughter's choices," Ziegler wrote.

She added the "right to die for the terminally ill is a human rights issue."

Maynard went public with her decision to end her life to raise funds through Compassion & Choices to advocate for assisted suicide as an option for terminally ill patients. She was featured on the cover of People magazine last month.

The Roman Catholic Church, which opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide and teaches that life starts at conception and should end at the moment of natural death, became the most high-profile institution to criticize her decision.

In his comments to Ansa, Carrasco de Paula argued against the notion of death with dignity.

"Suicide is not a good thing. It is a bad thing because it is saying no to life and to everything it means with respect to our mission in the world and towards those around us," he said.

Maynard was diagnosed in January with a glioblastoma brain tumor and moved from her San Francisco Bay Area home to Oregon, one of five U.S. states that allow assisted suicides for terminally ill patients.

Since 1997, more than 750 patients in Oregon have died from ingesting medications prescribed under the state's death with dignity law, according to the Oregon Public Health Division.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)