Beliefs Culture Ethics Institutions

Vatican ethicist: No dignity in Brittany Maynard’s physician-assisted death

The Vatican on July 9, 2014 announced reforms to its bank, including tapping Jean-Baptiste de Franssu as its new president.
The Vatican on July 9, 2014 announced reforms to its bank, including tapping Jean-Baptiste de Franssu as its new president.

Creative Commons image by @Doug88888

The Vatican’s top ethicist condemned Brittany Maynard’s decision to end her life, saying there was no dignity in her physician-assisted death.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican’s top ethicist condemned Brittany Maynard’s decision to end her life, saying there was no dignity in her physician-assisted death.

Maynard, 29, took a lethal prescription provided by a doctor under Oregon’s death-with-dignity law. She died in her bed Saturday (Nov. 1) after leaving family and friends a final farewell message. Earlier this year, she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and given only months to live.

“We don’t judge people, but the gesture in itself is to be condemned,” said Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, which is responsible for ethical issues in the Catholic Church.

“Assisted suicide is an absurdity,” Carrasco de Paula told the Italian news agency ANSA. “Dignity is something different than putting an end to your own life.”

Maynard became a media sensation as a video she posted on YouTube was viewed 9.8 million times. Her death made her an appealing young face for the right-to-die movement.

“Killing yourself is not a good thing; it’s a bad thing because it says no to life and to all that means in relation to our duty in the world and to those close to us,” the ethicist said.

Carrasco de Paula said assisted suicide was also dangerous because it offered a potential “solution” for a society that sought to abandon the sick and quit paying the costs of their illnesses.

“Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness… the world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers… goodbye world,” said Maynard in a Facebook post, according to People magazine.

Compassion & Choices, the advocacy group that worked closely with Maynard, said she died peacefully “surrounded by close family and loved ones.”

“Brittany has died, but her love of life and nature, her passion and spirit endure,” said the organization’s president, Barbara Coombs Lee, on its website. “We will work to carry on her legacy of bringing end-of-life choice to all Americans.”


About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.


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  • I guess I will have to interpret for him

    he saying she was wrong in murdering her self .
    most Christians know God has already judged murder to be wrong by the first commandment.

    he then says its not up to him to Judge where her soul ends up because of her murdering her self

    Christian know it is either in heaven or hell ..

    IF ITS HEAVEN ———God knew their was still faith in Jesus her only savior from sin..


    heaven or hell..

  • “Killing yourself is not a good thing; it’s a bad thing because it says no to life…” said Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula

    Yet he believes God killed himself (Rom 4:25) and committed suicide to prove this?
    Incoherent gibberish.

  • I should have said the fifth commandment catholic /Lutheran numbering .. yet breaking any commandment is also breaking the first commandment since your making your wants your self
    to be the god you follow ,, rather than the God who gave you his commandments

    the reason Lutherans and catholics number the commandments differently than protestants ..

    is there are 3 commandments that deal directly with what we should not do to God and the rest deal directly with what we should not do to our neighbors

  • Well thanks for sharing that with us, Monsignor. But as the kids say these days, “no 1 curr.”

    If I were the Monsignor, I’d just be happy that “head of the Pontifical Academy for Life” is somehow a job in 2014. Thank Christ for the Vatican’s bloated bureaucracy, huh?

  • It was dignified, because she was the one who chose for herself.

    Undignified would have been letting some silly old man in a bad dress who claims the moral authority over people who don’t grant it to him to choose for her.

  • 1 Corinthians 1:18

    For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

  • @ben
    your the ding bat.

    I think that is exactly what that fellow thought of the Pennsylvania policemen
    before he shot him and run like a little chicken off into the woods..

    look at the silly guy all Dressed up tin badge and all ,,who does he think he is .. I never gave him any authority over me..


  • @ pan—What kids say that?.. not the kids ive been around . I ONLY hear about all the teens murdering them selves .IF YOU ACTUALLY hear a kid saying something like that you perhaps you should let his or her parents be aware of it.. that might be the kids cry for help before they really do murder them selves.

  • The bible says people who dont want to follow gods rules are not to be judged by christians. Also, if god has a plan for everyone then this must have been part of his plan for her. Please stop being hypocritical. If you know you have no options and you want to go in a peaceful way vs suffering with inopperable cancer then that’s your choice. She made her choice so leave her be. Unless the church pay for people’s Bills and lifestyles they should keep their opinions and jugements to themselves.

  • @Rob Ben said the woman made a dignified choice because she made it herself; that she didn’t hand over that decision-making power to another.

    How do you manage to turn this remark into a rant about Ben’s taking a gun and killing another human being?

    It appears to me that you’re the one with anger and rage issues. Stop projecting your problems on to Ben and learn to deal with them. Nobody else can do that for you.

  • Supposedly god gave humans free will. Well, Brittany exercised hers. If god thinks that is wrong, it should blame itself.

    If a human thinks it is wrong, they should look deep inside their own imperfection before making any judgements about it.

  • Who cares what Monsignor Corrasco has to say. I’d like to hear what the current Pope has to say on the matter. He seems to have the most sense amongst those knuckleheads at the Vatican.. I’d also like to know if Monsignor has ever owned a cat or a dog. Do you think he’d let his pet suffer a terrible, drawn out death or do you think he’d call a vet for a little mercy.

  • And it would somehow be more “dignified” for her to linger in suffering … for no other reason than the Monsignor demands that she do so?

    I’m trying to see precisely where the “dignity” is in lingering and suffering without need …

    … and looking …

    … and looking some more …

    … nope. Can’t find it. Seems to me the Monsignor is talking through his hat, and doling out orders to people that he has no right to issue.

  • The real story is, The Vatican has a Chief Ethicist and it ain’t the Pope. And, this prelate is going to tell us that HE knows dignity when HE sees it. He should spend some time in the Vatican’s closets. It might help him learn the difference between dignity and corruption. Or not.

  • Funny,, AggieCatholiKKKs had this to say about it

    “To pray for Brittany Maynard’s soul, family, and friends is an act of charity. TO CONDEMN HER IS NOT.”

    ^^^But that’s EXACTLY what your death-cult masters in Rome did today.

    It’s nothing short of obscene that your malevolent iron-age superstition with its long, sordid history of murder, rape and torture now has the unmitigated gall to pretend to be “pro-life” in its efforts to dictate your sex-and-death-obsessed faux “morality” on the rest of the world. You ignorant sheep are just as disgusting as the millions of Muslims who delude themselves into thinking Islam is a “religion of peace” and pretend to be shocked when their ISIS champions commit atrocities in their name. You are NO DIFFERENT.

  • “your the ding bat.” <—– This idiot can't even spell, use proper grammar, or even hold a coherent thought.

    Your pathetic ad baculum "threats" and your wagging your flaccid sky fairy at folks who know it's a fairy tale would be comical if your malignant iron age superstition-based death cult weren't spreading death and hatred the world over. But that will soon end and Good Riddance, moron.

  • The current Poop is just a smiley-face mask on the wolf. LIpstick on a pig. Buddy Christ. You can’t fix stupid and the catholiKKK church is on its way out, clinging to its preposterous and malignant straw bogey-man campaigns in a desperate bid to stave off its exponentially-increasing irrelevance.

  • Really, who cares what “perspective” various flavors of the same turd of superstitions offer.

    The ONE person whose opinion counts in this matter has made her choice, and carried it out with the absolute and unwavering support of her family and friends. All you gawd-botherers and others who wish to impose your iron-age-goat-buners’-superstition-based faux-“morality” and your meddling, delusion-based ideas of how everyone else should live their lives have no say at all. It’s none of your business. Go clean up your OWN house and leave the rest of the damn planet alone.

  • look until the church runs a tight ship on their own internal issues with child abuse.. then and only then should they judge others .. i was born and raised and confirmed catholic and i am tired of the hypocrisy ..

    there is a separation of church and state in this country and the people from all beliefs made this legal and therefor it is not the place for the vatican to speak.

    i say sell off some of their wealth and start doing something ..

    these are only some of the reasons people left the church

  • Mr. “Sick of…,” you are way cool! Have you ever heard The Scathing Atheist podcasts? A couple guys out of New York, and they are hilarious, great shows, well-produced, tons of multiple-adjectival rants such as yours; you remind me of top cat Noah Lugeons.
    A doctor’s duty is to reduce suffering. All this young lady did was ask the doctor to do his job; instead of turning herself into a useless, drooling vegetable like Terry Schiavo and then having the media fight over her bloated, blasted corpse and having Congress schedule her for testimony, she chose “death with dignity.” One can hardly call that suicide. I’m sure the media is sorrier about it than the Church, she killed a big story. “We don’t judge people, but the gesture…is to be condemned”?? A self-contradictory chunk of B.S.; so “condemned” by whom? I suppose the Monsignor has a red phone with God. Shut up and sit down, you saucy little boy-chasing tart!

  • This is a ZERO percent of a surprise. He said he didn’t judge but hasn’t the Catholic Church already done that by calling suicide a “mortal sin” meaning basically unforgivable? If THAT’S not judgement I don’t know what is.

  • Atheist Max, if you defy an unjust political system and by an operation of their free will they have you executed, did you commit suicide? Maybe you just don’t understand the definition of the word “suicide.”

    The verse you cite uses the verb “paradidomi” which means “to deliver up treacherously; by betrayal to cause one to be taken”. Conversely, the word “suicide” means “the action of killing oneself intentionally.”

    Therefore, your statement is incoherent gibberish.

    Brittany elected to end her own life based solely on someone else’s opinion that she had only a couple months to live. Such a shame. Compare to Heather Knies in the same condition as Brittany who was similarly given just months to live and, keeping hope and praying fervently, was miraculously cured with no trace of the cancer for six years now.

    A deeper study of the Bible and Catholic Doctrine would serve you well.

  • Care to make you opinion known in St. Peters square or Fallujah Iraq?.
    Lets see which place you pick.

    Nice and safe to hurl sanctimonious accusations from the security of your house just like any coward.

  • So Catholics are the only ones not allowed to have an opinion until we are 100% pure or no fault and conform to the secularist culture.

    So how did you come to a point that you are 100% perfect and your opinion carries more weight than a Catholic, talk about hypocrisy.

    BTW lots of people leave the church, but just as many come in, like my wife, raised by athiest parents and only able to find her spiritual path after leaving home. Cheers

  • ….except that your malevolent sky daddy and your fairy tale book of horrors is a myth.

  • Those religious men are free to endure the vomiting, inability to breathe, incontinence and intractable pain at the end of their lives. Maybe they’ll even find some meaning in their suffering.

    The absurdity is that they feel the need to inject their fantasies into what is none of their business.

  • BOTH, loser.

    Cowardice is parroting malevolent fairy tales and superstitions because some baby-rapist in a dress tells you what you are going to think.

  • “Therefore, your statement is incoherent gibberish.” <—- OH THE IRONY that a holey-babble-thumper has ANYTHING to say about gibberish.

  • When all you hear is what your baby-raping priest in a silly dress spoon-feeds you, of course you won’t hear much that’s factual.

  • Does anyone know where you can send a letter to this vatican ethicist? This monsignor sickens me. How can the Catholic religion even begin to discuss “dignity” and make judgments on anyone? For years, they’ve looked the other way at their pedophil priests and all the damages they caused. As a Catholic, I send my apologies to the memory of Mrs. Maynard and her family. No one should judge her decision. Anyone, even the monsignor, who suffers with excruciating pain and terminal illness, could make the same decision. This was no easy decision for the poor woman. She should be admired and praised for bringing attention to ending her life in a very beautiful and dignified manner.

  • Mortal sins are not necessarily unforgivable. If the sinner is repentant no one is beyond God’s mercy. The church has never taught anything different, as demonstrated by christ: ‘get up and sin no more’.

    Also he didn’t judge her he just condemned the act.
    Aren’t you and others on here are judging him, and/or indeed anybody connected with the church, because you JUDGE the act differently?

    There’s a world of difference between a sin and the sinner. Love the sinner but hate the sin.

  • Haven’t you just judged the church?

    And you base your judgments on media stories many of which without foundation. I trust you’ll be judging every institution accountable for every crime committed by one their employees, why not start with teachers and the medical professions, then maybe move on to the hypocritical media or entertainment industry all with at least equal records of men abusing boys.
    (And we’re not here to debate that btw it is beside the point)

    So again if anyone is going to be judgemental about somebody because they think they are judgemental then try not to be sanctimonious about it: it’s just hypocritical!
    (And yes, by me making a statement there i agree that can be interpreted as a judgement. If you’re being sanctimonious of course…)!

  • Her judgment is based on THE VATICAN ANNOUNCEMENT, straight from the HORSE’S ASSES MOUTH. It’s nothing short of OBSCENE that you attempt to minimize the scope of your pedophile ring by passing off group actions on single individuals, to wit: the massive cover-ups involving shuffling known pedophiles to third world countries and other parishes.

    Your hysterical gyrations to judge while telling yourself you aren’t judging because your superstitious fairy tales tell you that judging is “bad” are the stuff of MOnty Python comedy.

    Your church NEEDS judging.

  • Mick: It’s not a matter of “having an opinion”; it’s the fact that you have no claim whatsoever to any sort of “moral high ground”.

    Your whiny babbling about “100% perfect” nonsense is utter tosh.

    If you aren’t aware that your religion is hemorrhaging members at an exponential scale, you don’t have a clue what is going on.

  • This argument has turned away from the real matter at hand physician assisted suicide. Instead people here are just plain out bashing religion. Though I do not affiliate myself with any one religion I still will not just belligerently bash the religion without a standpoint to back it.
    What I don’t understand is why religious people need to stick their nose in other peoples’ business. Who are they to decide that this brave young women’s death had “no dignity?” What she did was her choice. No one should be able say that she shouldn’t make the choice. It is her body and her life to decide. It also upsets me that the church says “we don’t judge people,” but isn’t that exactly what they are doing.. judging her action?
    I support physician-assisted death because as human beings we have the rights to our own bodies.

  • You know, your pathetic and obscene pretense of claiming to condemn a person’s “actions”, rather than condemning the person, is fooling NO ONE.


    You aren’t fooling anyone. Clean up YOUR OWN HOUSE — NAMELY your sick and perverted institutionalized child-rapist ring. Until then, you have NOTHING to say about anyone’s morality.

  • “Though I do not affiliate myself with any one religion I still will not just belligerently bash the religion without a standpoint to back it.”


    There wouldn’t be a single atheist/nonbeliever on this page if the catholiKKK church had kept its insane, inane, btshtcrazy opinion to itself. But NO, the catholiKKK church just HAD to publicly weigh in, and denigrate and disparage Brittany for the choice she made. And now they are getting the backlash.

    Is that so surprising?

  • I do not find it suprising that the church had to make a statement at all. I was just saying that people were forgetting about the issue attached to this article and bashing the church because of other things they have done in the past or are still doing. What I don’t understand is why the church had to throw it in the faces of Brittany’s family and friends. They find nothing wrong with the choice she made. So why did the church have to publicly bash her views?
    No one, especially the church, has a right to say that I or anyone else doesn’t have the right to my own body or life.

  • “….and bashing the church because of other things they have done in the past or are still doing blah blah blah… belligerently bash the religion without a standpoint to back it….blah blah blah…”

    NO one is “bashing the church”. We are CALLING THEM on their hypocrisy. And it’s utterly absurd and ignorant for you to claim that we have “no standpoint to back it”. The catholiKKK church has no standpoint to claim any sort of “moral high ground” about ANYTHING.

  • I always get a kick out of reading comments from people that have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. @Sick, you seem to like the attention and have the last word. Rest be assured that when you come close to death, the last word will be God’s. Catholics and Non-Catholics are by nature imperfect people. The Catholic church is by all means not perfect because it’s followers are imperfect humans. The church has done and will continue to do a lot of good to the world. How about you actually start learning about the real truth about Catholics before you even give an idiotic opinion. So, this means that all you is gibberish talk? so that you can contradict people just for fun or self satisfaction? The true purpose of having a religion is so that people have the chance to co-exist and have a reason to believe in something that will allow them to have hope in life. All the atheists of the world have a difficult task accepting that you have the need to be heard and exist. Strange, you already have the need to belong….thank goodness you don’t need God for that? right? So you have the right to your opinion, but stop being so hateful. Again, I will remind you again, when you face death and the day will come, feel free to claim mercy and forgiveness because God’s love is that great and powerful. His ever mercy and love for you despite of your hateful demeanor is able to forgive you. So for now, why don’t you just go blog onto other websites made for hateful people like you. Have a nice day!

  • Oh how civil we are with one another today… Fight facts with facts not silly name calling with absurd name calling.