Terminally ill ‘death with dignity’ advocate dies
PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) — A young woman who moved to Oregon to take advantage of the state’s assisted-suicide law took lethal drugs prescribed by a doctor and has died, a spokesman said Sunday.
Brittany Maynard, 29, was diagnosed with brain cancer on New Year’s Day and was later given six months to live. She and her husband, Dan Diaz, moved from California because that state does not allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with lethal drugs prescribed by a doctor.
Maynard became a nationally recognized advocate for the group Compassion & Choices, which seeks to expand aid-in-dying laws beyond a handful of states.
Sean Crowley, a spokesman for Compassion & Choices, said in a statement late Sunday that Maynard died Saturday “as she intended — peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones.”
Crowley said Maynard “suffered increasingly frequent and longer seizures, severe head and neck pain, and stroke-like symptoms. As symptoms grew more severe she chose to abbreviate the dying process by taking the aid-in-dying medication she had received months ago.”
Maynard’s story, accompanied by photos from her pre-illness wedding day, got attention across the globe while igniting a debate about doctor-assisted suicide.
She told reporters she planned to take her life Saturday, less than three weeks before her 30th birthday, but later said she was feeling well enough to possibly postpone. She said she wasn’t suicidal but wanted to die on her own terms, and she reserved the right to move the death date forward or push it back.
She said her husband and other relatives accepted her choice.
“I think in the beginning my family members wanted a miracle; they wanted a cure for my cancer.” she told The Associated Press in early October. “I wanted a cure for my cancer. I still want a cure for my cancer. One does not exist, at least that I’m aware of.
“When we all sat down and looked at the facts, there isn’t a single person that loves me that wishes me more pain and more suffering.”
Oregon was the first U.S. state to make it legal for a doctor to prescribe a life-ending drug to a terminally ill patient of sound mind who makes the request. The patient must swallow the drug without help; it is illegal for a doctor to administer it.
More than 750 people in Oregon used the law to die as of Dec. 31, 2013. The median age of the deceased is 71. Only six were younger than 35, like Maynard.
The state does not track how many terminally ill people move to Oregon to die. A patient must prove to a doctor that they are living in Oregon. Some examples of documentation include a rental agreement, a voter registration card or a driver’s license.
Oregon voters approved the Death with Dignity Act in 1994, then reaffirmed it — 60 percent to 40 percent — in 1997.