Brittany Maynard supporters released a video on what would have been her 30th birthday Wednesday showing her advocating for death-with-dignity laws to be passed nationwide. After being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer earlier this year, Maynard moved from California to Portland, Oregon, to use the state’s law allowing terminally ill people to end their own lives, and did so on Nov. 1, using a cocktail of doctor-prescribed drugs.
“I hope for the sake of other American citizens — all these people I’m speaking to that I’ve never met, that I'll never meet — that this choice be extended to you … That we mobilize. That we vocalize. That we start to talk about it,” Maynard said in the video, recorded Aug. 2.
The video, which was released by right-to-die advocacy group Compassion & Choices, is partially narrated by Maynard. Photos of Maynard before her illness are shown as well as voices from other terminally ill patients. The group said its website has had more than 5 million unique visitors this past month, and Maynard’s past two videos have more than 13 million views on YouTube, USA Today reports.
But not everyone is a fan of Maynard’s choice. A Vatican official condemned her actions, calling assisted suicide “an absurdity.”
"This woman [took her own life] thinking she would die with dignity, but this is the error," Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said. "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 toward those around us."
Maynard’s mother, Debbie Ziegler, responded to the criticism on Tuesday in a statement released by Compassion & Choices.
“Such strong public criticism from people we do not know, have never met — is more than a slap in the face. It is like kicking us as we struggle to draw a breath. 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 choice," Ziegler said.
Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico currently have right-to-die laws that permit physician-assisted suicide. Last month, a "death with dignity" bill was introduced in Pennsylvania. Last week, the New Jersey general assembly passed an "Aid in Dying" bill where physicians would be allowed to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients.
"I sense immense momentum right now," Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices, said. The group expects about a dozen states to introduce right-to-die laws next year. "Brittany Maynard is a new voice for a new generation of activists. ... She devoted her precious energy to help ensure other dying Americans would have a choice."