A young woman who sparked a new round of debate about physician-assisted dying in recent weeks took her life on Saturday. In January, Brittany Maynard, 29, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, then told she only had six months to live. She and her family recently moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of its Death With Dignity law, which allows doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients. A spokesman for the advocacy group Compassion & Choices announced on Sunday night that Maynard died, “as she intended — peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones.”
Maynard began working with the nonprofit group after moving to Portland and obtaining her prescription. In 1994, Oregon became the first state to allow doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to the terminally ill, and since then more than 750 people have used it to take their lives. Montana, Washington, New Mexico, and Vermont have similar laws.
In a video posted last month by Compassion & Choices, which has been viewed more than 9.5 million times, Maynard explains her decision:
For the past few months, Maynard has been traveling with her family and friends, and on October 21 they took a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon, which she wanted to see before she died. Last month she told People she planned to die on November 1, a few days after her husband’s birthday. “My glioblastoma is going to kill me and that’s out of my control,” she said. “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 suggested this week that she may choose a later date, but apparently she stuck with her original plan. According to People, she posted a final message on Facebook. “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. “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!”