Letter to the Editor: Progress made in human rights issues in 2014


The year 2014 saw significant progress in the struggle for human rights in this country. A year ago, gay marriage was legal in 18 states. It is now, despite fierce opposition from religious fundamentalists, legal in 35 states with the expectation that it soon will be legal nationwide.

And now, thanks to a courageous young women, the right to die or the death with dignity movement has gained national attention.

Brittany Maynard  was diagnosed with brain cancer on Jan. 19, 2014. After two operations, she was told she had 10 years to live. However, in April the cancer returned and was deemed a stage-4 glioblastoma and was told she had only 10 months to live. It was then that she decided to forego aggressive treatment because it would be physically and emotionally demanding to her and her loved ones. She chose to establish residency in Oregon to take advantage of that state’s aid-in-dying law.  In a video that gained nationwide attention (it was viewed 8 million times), she announced she would take a lethal drug at the time of her choosing.

Her goal in going public was to bring to attention how all too few terminally ill Americans can choose when to die. This is her response to her critics: “I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity. My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don’t have that choice?  That I deserve to suffer tremendous amounts pain? Why should any one have the right to make that choice for me?”

As usual, the Vatican condemned her decision, saying it offers a “false sense of compassion” and calling death with dignity “an offense against God and creation.” In response, Debbie Ziegler, Maynard’s mother, wrote: “The imposition of ‘belief’ on a human rights issue is wrong. To censure personal choice as reprehensible because it does not comply with someone’s else’s belief is immoral.”

After writing on Facebook. “Good bye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward,”  Maynard took her prescription and died at home with her loved ones at her side. She was 29 years old.

Gene Rigelon, Front Royal