The World Is A Beautiful Place: As Planned, Brittany Maynard Died A Dignified Death
Determined to "speak your own truth, even when your voice shakes," Brittany Maynard, whose terminal brain cancer led her to become an advocate for end-of-life patients' rights, has taken medication to end her life under Oregon’s death-with-dignity law just as she wanted - at peace, at home with her husband and family, "on my own terms." She was newly married, and 29. After learning earlier this year that she had glioblastoma multiforme - a savage, incurable form of brain cancer known as The Terminator that brings on rapid cognitive decline once described as "Alzheimer's on steroids" - Maynard relocated to Oregon, one of just five states allowing doctors to prescribe lethal medications for terminally ill patients. She also partnered with the advocacy group Compassion & Choices, a non-profit working to expand Americans’ end-of-life rights to include the choice to die with dignity. Maynard's health was reportedly rapidly declining, with frequent seizures, severe headaches and neck pain, and stroke-like symptoms. She passed in peace on November 1, as she had planned.
In an obituary titled, "One Day Your Life Will Flash Before Your Eyes - Make Sure It's Worth Watching," her family described her "29 years of generosity, compassion, education, travel, and humor." A graduate of UC Berkeley and UC Irvine who "believed in compassion (and) equity," she was an "adventuresome traveler" who taught in orphanages in Nepal, traveled through Southeast Asia and elsewhere, summited Kilimanjaro, took ice climbing and scuba diving courses. Shortly before she died, she traveled to Alaska and the Grand Canyon, as she had always wanted. The obit quotes Theodore Roosevelt: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
Pro-life (sic) groups publicly criticized Maynard’s decision, condemning her as a pawn in a "malevolent" death-with-dignity movement they called "anti-life." The head of the group Priests for Life called her death "a tragedy, hastened by (the) culture of death invading our country" and said they prayed for terminally people to "find the courage to live every day to the fullest until God calls them home." Another critic noted that, "Sadly, Brittany will be missing out on the most intimate moments of her life – her loved ones comforting her through her suffering...and the great mystery of death." (It's unclear how they thought she would miss out, given she's...dead.)
Many others saluted her courage and supported her decision, even while mourning her. Many felt her youth and visibility in her campaign could change the debate on end-of-life decisions in this country. In a statement, Compassion and Choices praised Maynard for her "informed choice to die with dignity in the face of such a terrible, painful, and incurable illness." As much as Maynard didn't want to die, they said, she believed, "The freedom is in the choice."