PORTLAND – Despite pleas from numerous concerned citizens across the country—including those who are fighting terminal diseases themselves, Brittany Maynard ended her life under Oregon’s “Death with Dignity Act”.
The 29-year-old woman, who was diagnosed with brain cancer, wrote to followers prior to her death that she wanted them to push other states to permit people to kill themselves under similar circumstances.
“As my time draws closer, I hope you will all take up my request to carry on this work, and support [my family and friends] as they carry on my legacy,” she wrote.
“Dan and I have given up our dreams of having a family. My mother is soon to lose her only child. We can all agree that no parent should bury their child,” she concluded.
As previously reported, Maynard announced early last month that she would end her life on November 1st unless she decided “to change [her] mind about taking the medication [to hasten her death].”
On New Year’s Day this year, Maynard was diagnosed with Astrocytoma and underwent brain surgery days later to help stop the cancerous tumor from growing. She was given ten years to live.
In April, Maynard learned that the cancer had progressed to Glioblastoma multiforme, and was more aggressive than ever. She was advised that she instead had six months to live, and was informed about various treatment possibilities. She had, however, outlived her six-month prognosis.
Maynard explained in a recent op-ed for CNN said that she rejected the treatment options because they would impact her “quality of life,” and also decided not to pursue hospice care because she did not want her family to watch her suffer.
“Because the rest of my body is young and healthy, I am likely to physically hang on for a long time even though cancer is eating my mind,” she wrote. “I probably would have suffered in hospice care for weeks or even months. And my family would have had to watch that.”
Maynard outlined that she then began researching euthanasia, or as she called it, “death with dignity,” and concluded that it was her “best option.” However, because euthanasia is illegal in California, she and her husband moved to Oregon, which passed a law allowing the practice in 1997. Approximately 750 people have died under the legislation since its enactment.
The 29-year-old then obtained a prescription for a medication that would hasten her death. According to People Magazine, Maynard “will pull apart 100 capsules of the sedative secobarbital, dissolve them in water, drink it— and slip into a final, irreversible sleep.” She also decided to establish a fund that will go toward efforts to legalize euthanasia in other states, the “work” that she asked her friends and family to undertake in her new message on the Brittany Maynard Fund website.
But a number of those who heard Maynard’s story, including those who are struggling with terminal illnesses themselves, had been seeking to reach out to the young woman and urge her not to take her death into her own hands.
“Brittany, I love you, and I’m sorry you are dying. I am sorry that we are both being asked to walk a road that feels simply impossible to walk,” 37-year-old wife and mother Kara Tippetts, whose breast cancer has metastasized throughout her body, wrote in a public letter recently. “[But] in your choosing your own death, you are robbing those that love you with the such tenderness, the opportunity of meeting you in your last moments and extending you love in your last breaths. … That last kiss, that last warm touch, that last breath, matters—but it was never intended for us to decide when that last breath is breathed.”
“Brittany, I ache for you and your family. I pray that your tumor will make a miraculous change for the better. And if that does not happen, I pray that whenever you pass away, you know the Lord,” also wrote 39-year-old wife and mother Heather Laurie, who suffers from mitochondrial disease. “I choose to die with dignity. The dignity of awaiting the Lord’s timing. When He calls, I shall with great joy join Him in Heaven and leave behind the pain and suffering this body had developed, but I will not allow one second to be shaved off of that life because I am scared.”
“Yes, I have to take lots of medications daily. I now take as much as 21 hours a day attached to an IV pole. An oxygen line is my new partner all day and night. I can no longer even eat via my mouth and yet I still continue. I hurt. I am nauseous. I am sick and weak,” she shared. “[But] there is so much that you can do even when leashed by an IV pole and needing to spend hours in bed or a power wheelchair. Life will find you where you are. And life is good!”
“If I could spend a few moments with Brittany before she swallows that prescription she has already filled, I would tell her how I have felt the love of Jesus strengthen and comfort me through my own cancer, chronic pain and quadriplegia,” penned 65-year-old author and advocate for the disabled Joni Eareckson Tada, who has been paralyzed from the shoulders down since a teenager and who was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. “I would tell her that the saddest thing of all would be for her to wake up on the other side of her tombstone only to face a grim, joyless existence not only without life, but without God.”
“[Taking the fatal dosage] will provide only a temporary reprieve and will only more quickly usher in an eternity separated from God, which would be ultimate and pointless suffering,” she continued. “Life is the most irreplaceable and fundamental condition of the human experience, and I implore Brittany and others considering her example to take a long, hard look at the consequences of a decision that is so fatal, and worst of all, so final.”