Written by Andrea Martin, Media by Jack Wang.
Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman diagnosed with brain cancer, died after advocating her right to end her life on her own terms. Earlier this year, Maynard was told she had six months to live after being diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive and degenerative cancerous disease, which only gives a median survival rate of 14.6 months. Upon learning what the disease would do to her body in its final stages, Maynard made the decision to “die with dignity.”
“Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love,” she wrote in a Facebook post, according to People magazine. “Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness… the world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers… goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!” Maynard ended her own life after moving to Oregon with her husband where the Death With Dignity Act has allowed hundreds to end their own life by taking medication prescribed by doctors. Maynard chose Nov. 1 because it was after her husband’s birthday in late October.
Maynard’s decision has placed a light upon those who advocate the right for people to end their own life, and has been supported by the group Compassion and Choices. In a blog post for CNN, Maynard declared that she is “not suicidal…I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.” Maynard refused to do treatments that were necessary to attack glioblastoma, and instead decided to travel to different parts of the country. She was able to cross off the last trip on her bucket list, which was to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Long before becoming ill, Maynard was an active traveller who lived in Southwest Asia for a year, and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
With this high profiled decision, Maynard’s death opens the floodgates on the debate regarding assisted suicide. What makes this case different regards Maynard’s age and her life: a newlywed who had everything going for her, but was faced with the terrible fate that her life would eventually come to be. In many other cases, middle-aged or older-aged people are facing the same dilemma, but Maynard has been able to generate talk regarding assisted suicide for the younger generations. There has been some opposition, especially within the medical field. Some doctors claim that assisted suicide does nothing to fix problem of death within the U.S. or wage a battle against terminal illnesses, and that the standards a doctor must live up to is to safely guide them to recovery, and not encourage the possibility of assisted suicide. Maynard is survived by her husband, Daniel Diaz, her mother, Deborah Ziegler, and her step-father Gary Holmes.