Euthanasia Debate – How free was Brittany Maynard?

New Zealand Catholic Bioethics Centre director John Kleinsman wonders how free Brittany Maynard really was.

Maynard, a terminally ill  29 year old American ended her life last week home in Oregon, using drugs supplied legally to her under the state’s Death with Dignity Act.

She worked as a volunteer advocate for the nation’s leading end-of-life choice organisation, Compassion and Choices.

In the weeks leading up to her death, Maynard succeeded sparking a national discussion  in the United States on “death with dignity.”

A video explaining her choice garnered more than 8.8 million views on YouTube.

Kleinsman is sympathetic to individuals such as Brittany Maynard, but says he knows some young people in similar circumstances who don’t want to end their lives.

“She offered herself up to be a poster girl for euthanasia. There would be immense pressure for a person in her position if she wanted to change her mind.”

He says many people consider the argument as a question of choice, but it is not that simple.

He says legalising euthanasia “will actually take the choice of dying away and make people feel pressured into ‘doing the right thing’.”

He believes palliative care has improved so much that people don’t need to die in pain.

Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, one of the Catholic church’s leaders on bioethical issues and head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, called the decision to end one’s life undignified, the Associated Press reports. “Brittany Maynard’s act is in itself reprehensible,” he told the ANSA news agency. “What happened in the consciousness we do not know.”

de Paula stressed that he did not mean to pass judgement against Maynard herself, but rather took issue with Maynard’s argument that people faced with devastating, terminal medical conditions should have the freedom to end their lives at a time of their choosing. “The gesture in and of itself should be condemned,” Carrasco de Paula said.

In New Zealand Right to Life has expressed disappointment that Labour MP, Iain Lees-Galloway, has  announced that he is preparing to resubmit to the ballot a private member’s bill, “End of Life Choice bill”

The bill was initially proposed, but later withdrawn, by fellow Labour MP Maryan Street before the last election.

She said she was withdrawing it because  she feared it would become a political football.

Street, a list MP, had intended to reintroduce the bill after the election but she she did not retain her seat.

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