— -- The mother of the young woman who chose to end her life after battling cancer is defending her daughter's right to die, saying critics have no place to comment while her family grieves.
Debbie Ziegler, whose daughter Brittany Maynard died earlier this month, also addressed the Vatican official who recently blasted her daughter's decision as misguided suicide.
"My 29-year-old daughter's choice to die gently rather than suffer physical and mental degradation and intense pain does not deserve to be labelled as reprehensible by strangers a continent away who do not know her or the particulars of her situation," Ziegler wrote in the letter.
Maynard, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer, died on November 1 after taking lethal medication prescribed by her doctor.
She and her family had previously moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of the state's right to die laws.
Her mother said the criticism "is more than a slap in the face."
"It is like kicking us as we struggle to draw a breath," she said in the letter, expressing shock that anyone could have negative things to say about her daughter, especially at such a difficult time.
"Death is not necessarily the enemy in all cases," Ziegler added. "Sometimes a gentle passing is a gift. Misguided doctors caught up in an aspirational belief that they must extend life, whatever the cost, cause individuals and families unnecessary suffering. Brittany stood up to bullies. She never thought anyone else had the right to tell her how long she should suffer. The right to die for the terminally ill is a human rights issue. Plain and simple."
Maynard had become the face of the death with dignity movement in recent months through her work with the group Compassion & Choices, and chronicled her final days online, ticking items off a bucket list like a trip to the Grand Canyon.