Terminally Ill Women Ends Her Own Life Under 'Death with Dignity' Act

Terminally Ill Women Ends Her Own Life Under 'Death with Dignity' Act

Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old terminally ill woman, ended her own life on Saturday under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Law. 

Maynard was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma last spring and was given six months to live. She made international headlines most recently when she went public with her intent to die using death with dignity, which is a physician-assisted suicide by lethal drugs.

She wrote this message on Facebook the morning she passed:

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. 

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!

Oregon was reportedly the first state to enact the law in 1997, which was approved by voters in 1994, and four other states followed, including New Mexico, Washington, Montana, and Vermont. 

As of December, 2013, approximately 750 people had taken their own lives in Oregon, with only six of the patients being under the age of 35 and the remainder around 71-years-old.

Maynard said she began contemplating death with dignity when she was first diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in January. She found an article about it while researching treatment options.

Doctors had removed the tumor, but within two months it came back much larger. Maynard said her decision to die with dignity was gradual, and she opted out of chemotherapy or radiation treatments. She moved from California to Oregon in June with her husband, mother, and stepfather to qualify.

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

Maynard launched an online campaign on Oct. 6 with an advocacy group called Compassion & Choices in hopes to expand the law nationwide. She wanted to represent other terminally ill patients who wish to die on their own terms. This caused controversy, as many religious groups object to the Death With Dignity Act. 

“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 from Priests for Life. “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.”

Maynard was described as an adventurous woman with a lust for life. She’s traveled around the world, taught orphans in Nepal, and even climbed Kilimanjaro one month before her wedding in 2012. She received an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley and a master’s in education from UC Irvine. 

Brittany Maynard died in her bedroom this past weekend surrounded by her loved ones. As far as her legacy, this is what she described:

For me what matters most is the way I’m remembered by my family and my husband as a good woman who did my best to be a good wife and a good daughter. Beyond that, getting involved with this campaign, I hope to be making a difference here.

If I’m leaving a legacy, it’s to change this health-care policy or be a part of this change of this health care policy so it becomes available to all Americans. That would be an enormous contribution to make, even if I’m just a piece of it.