A young US woman diagnosed with terminal brain cancer has committed suicide to avoid pain, following announcements to do so that triggered a national debate over the right to choose one’s death.
Sean Crowley, spokesman for Compassion & Choices, an activist group that helps individuals plan their own demise “with dignity”, said that Brittany Maynard passed away peacefully in her home in Oregon on Saturday.
Maynard and her husband Dan Diaz moved from their home in California to Oregon, one of a handful of US states with a “right-to-die” law. A doctor could therefore prescribe her the medication she needs to end her own life, surrounded by her family in the bedroom.
“Brittany has died, but her love of life and nature, her passion and spirit endure,” Compassion & Choice’s president, Barbara Coombs Lee, added.
“In Brittany’s memory, do what matters most. And tell those you love how much they matter to you. We will work to carry on her legacy of bringing end-of-life choice to all Americans.”
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.
In April, doctors told Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman, that she had six months to live and that her death would be painful because of the aggressive nature of her cancer.
She grabbed headlines earlier this month, announcing in a video she made that she had decided to end her life. The video went viral and was seen by millions of web users.
‘Die with dignity’
“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 in a message circulated widely on social media.
“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!”
Maynard had been trying for a first child with her husband at the time, but gave up due to her disease.
Her story has made headlines around the world, and she was featured on the cover of last week’s People magazine in the United States.
As Maynard sparked a national debate over what it means to “die with dignity”, Joe Neyer, a US man who suffers from a deadly brain tumour, discussed a message he had delivered to Maynard before she died about how one could “live with quality” in the face of the terminal illness.
“There are possibilities to live well with a terminal condition. I want her [Maynard] to open herself to possibilities that are just beyond the right to die with dignity.”
Maynard had in recent weeks and months been working to tick off items on a “bucket list” of what she wanted to do before she died – including travelling to the Grand Canyon last week.