Louisiana Right to Life responds to 'death with dignity' debate

Louisiana Right to Life responds to 'death with dignity' debate

"If November second comes along and I've passed, I hope that my family is still proud of me in the choices I've made," Brittany Maynard said in a video message before taking her life.

The 29-year-old brain cancer patient's choice to end her life Saturday sparked a nationwide debate over doctor-assisted suicide. Maynard spent her final months working with the advocacy group Compassion and Choices.

In a final message on her website, she wrote, "it is people who pause to appreciate life and give thanks who are happiest. If we change our thoughts, we change our world! Love and peace to you all."

In the past few years, some states have introduced similar legislation to the "death with dignity" law in Oregon, where Maynard moved after her diagnosis. According to the Death with Dignity organization, Washington and Vermont now have similar laws, and seven other states have introduced similar legislation.

The lethal medication Maynard carried with her was prescribed by a physician in Oregon. As of the end of 2013, the state's death with dignity law allowed more than 750 people to end their lives with a prescribed drug. Only six of those people were younger than 35.

In video messages, Maynard described the choice as dying on her own terms instead of from her aggressive brain tumor.

"I can't even tell you the amount of relief that it provides me to know that I don't have to die the way that it has been described to me that my brain tumor would take me," Maynard said.

In Louisiana, physician-assisted suicide is illegal, and groups such as the Louisiana Right to Life Federation say they'll fight to keep it that way.

"When we're talking on social media and magazines about how Brittany is a hero for her story, how do we think that fits with young people who think that suicide is the choice they need to make right now? We can't make suicide normalization a message we give to our young people," said Benjamin Clapper, executive director of the Louisiana Right to Life Federation.

Clapper worries that the law discourages people from continuing to fight - whether they have a mental health problem or a terminal illness.

"For every Brittany, there may be 10, 20, 30, 40 other people that are facing depression that are looking towards suicide as a solution in their life," Clapper said. "Remember, every diagnosis that a doctor makes can be wrong. The wrong decision can be made. They could be shortening their life when they could be offering the blessings of their life to other people and their family."

Clapper believes his thoughts are in line with most Louisianans, even as other states consider Brittany Maynard's point of view.

Clapper said there are groups who support different aspects of the death with dignity conversation, and he said there have been bills touching on the issues bought up in Louisiana. However, he said, the bills have never made it far through the legislature.

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