Monday, November 3, 2014


Brittany Maynard did something on Saturday that few people in her position are able to: she ended her life on her own terms. Maynard, 29, who was suffering from incurable brain cancer, took a lethal dose of drugs provided to her by her physician under an Oregon law that allows terminally ill patients to choose when they want to die.
Maynard and her husband moved to Portland from Northern California to take advantage of the state’s controversial, first-of-its-kind-in-the-nation physician-assisted suicide law. According to the advocacy group Compassion & Choices, Oregon is one of only five states that currently has an “aid in dying” law allowing such action.

She appeared on the Oct. 27 cover of People magazine, which brought her story to the public eye and made her a face — albeit a tragically young one — of the right-to-die movement.


Brittany posted a video on October 29 for her friends and family in which she discussed her illness and the difficult decision facing her in the near future. “My goal, of course, is to influence this policy for positive change,” she said. “I would like to see all Americans have access to the same health care rights.

An obituary on Compassion & Choices’ website summed up Maynard’s vibrant life, and death. “Brittany Lauren Maynard was born in 1984 and forged a brief but solid 29 years of generosity, compassion, education, travel, and humor. She happily met her husband Daniel Diaz in April of 2007 and they married, as best friends, 5 years later in September of 2012,” it read.

Brittany Maynard 

“This past year, on New Year’s Day, Brittany was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. She was given a terminal diagnosis for which there was no cure or life saving measures available. In the face of such terminal illness and pain, Brittany chose to live each day fully, traveled, and kept as physically active and busy as she possibly could.
The tribute noted how after being told that “she probably didn’t even have weeks to be on her feet,” she climbed 10 mile trails along the ice fields of Alaska with her best friend. It was just the latest adventure for a woman who spent her life challenging herself and exploring the world. From living solo and teaching in orphanages in Kathmandu, Nepal, she moved on to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore and Thailand, spent a summer in Costa Rica, traveled to Tanzania and summited Kilimanjaro with a girlfriend a month before her wedding.
“She died as she intended — peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones,” said Compassion & Choices spokesperson Sean Crowley. Before her death, Crowley said Maynard suffered from “increasingly frequent and longer seizures, severe head and neck pain, and stroke-like symptoms.”
Because of her youth, because of the way Maynard used social media to tell her story over the past year, she brought the issue of assisted suicide to the fore in a way it hasn’t been discussed in many years. That, of course, also drew some criticism from religious groups and other organizations opposed to physician-assisted suicide.

“We are saddened by the fact that this young woman gave up hope, and now our concern is for other people with terminal illnesses who may contemplate following her example,” said Janet Morana, executive director of the group Priests for Life, according to the Associated Press. “Brittany’s death was not a victory for a political cause. It was a tragedy, hastened by despair and aided by the culture of death invading our country.”
Seventeen years ago, Oregon became the first U.S. state to pass the Death With Dignity Act, which makes it legal for a doctor to prescribe a life-ending drug to a terminally ill patient of sound mind who makes the request. While the doctor cannot administer the drugs, the patient is free to take them on their own. As of December 31, 2013, more than 750 people in Oregon have used the law to die.
Our sympathies are with Brittany’s family and friends.

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