Brittany Maynard on Death with Dignity

Brittany Maynard, 29, took her life on 1 November 2014 following a diagnosis of inoperable brain cancer.

On 7 October 2014, an op-ed piece written by 29-year-old newlywed Brittany Maynard of Oregon was widely read and

shared. In it, Maynard explained that she planned to take her own life on 1 November 2014 rather than die of the terminal cancer with which she had been diagnosed.

Maynard’s essay was published on CNN and not only widely shared but widely questioned by those unsettled by the 29-year-old’s calm, reasoned tone in describing the tragic circumstances that befell her family in 2014.

Brittany stated on 1 January 2014, she was diagnosed with brain cancer after suffering unexplained headaches for several months. Maynard and husband David Diaz put aside their goal of starting a family to attend to Brittany’s sudden and severe illness, and she explained how she and her family arrived at their painful decision to move to Oregon and end Brittany’s life:


Our lives devolved into hospital stays, doctor consultations and medical research. Nine days after my initial diagnoses, I had a partial craniotomy and a partial resection of my temporal lobe. Both surgeries were an effort to stop the growth of my tumor.

In April, I learned that not only had my tumor come back, but it was more aggressive. Doctors gave me a prognosis of six months to live.

Because my tumor is so large, doctors prescribed full brain radiation. I read about the side effects: The hair on my scalp would have been singed off. My scalp would be left covered with first-degree burns. My quality of life, as I knew it, would be gone.

After months of research, my family and I reached a heartbreaking conclusion: There is no treatment that would save my life, and the recommended treatments would have destroyed the time I had left.


 

Maynard detailed her available options, noting her relative youth and otherwise good health meant a terminal decline could last weeks or months. The potential loss of her faculties and cognitive abilities in hospice care were, Maynard said, considerations that led her to move to Oregon in order to legally die on her own terms:


I did not want this nightmare scenario for my family, so I started researching death with dignity. It is an end-of-life option for mentally competent, terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live. It would enable me to use the medical practice of aid in dying: I could request and receive a prescription from a physician for medication that I could self-ingest to end my dying process if it becomes unbearable.

 

Maynard said in the end, her choice was not whether or not to die, but how to die. She told People magazine that:


My glioblastoma is going to kill me, and that’s out of my control. I’ve discussed with many experts how I would die from it, and it’s a terrible, terrible way to die. Being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying.

 

On 1 November 2014, Brittany followed through on her plans and ended her life:


Brittany Maynard, who became the public face of the controversial right-to-die movement over the last few weeks, ended her own life [on November 1] at her home in Portland, Oregon. She was 29.

“Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more,” she wrote on Facebook. “The world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers. I even have a ring of support around my bed as I type … Goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!”


 

More information on Brittany Maynard and her end-of-life advocacy efforts can be found at the Brittany Fund‘s website.

Last updated:   2 November 2014

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