Beliefs

Brittany Maynard, face of right-to-die movement, died as she planned

cover-768-480x640(RNS) Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old suffering with an aggressive brain tumor, died Saturday — as she said she would.

Sean Crowley, spokesman for the non-profit advocacy organization Compassion & Choices, confirmed Maynard’s death Sunday evening.

“She died peacefully on Saturday, Nov. 1 in her Portland home, surrounded by family and friends,” according to a statement from Compassion & Choices, which first publicized Maynard’s controversial plan to take control of her death.

The statement said Maynard suffered “increasingly frequent and longer seizures, severe head and neck pain, and stroke-like symptoms.” She chose to take the “aid-in-dying medication she received months ago.”

She captivated millions via social media by announcing her plan to end her life around Nov. 1 by taking a lethal prescription provided to her by a doctor under Oregon’s death-with-dignity law.

After doctors told her in April that the brain cancer was growing rapidly and gave her months to life, Maynard moved with her family from California to Oregon to be eligible for physician-assisted dying.

Then she went a step further. She made a video, released by Compassion & Choices, and gave an interview with People Magazine that brought the issue of right to die to the public forefront. Maynard spoke of loving life — and wanting to die on her own terms.

Editorialists, ethicists and evangelists weighed in on whether physician-assisted dying is a dangerous act that devalues people who live with disabilities and denies God’s role in life or an act of self determination.

There was a flurry of headlines that she may have changed her mind when Maynard indicated that she might postpone taking the medication. She released a second video Wednesday where she said she had no set date — and no interest in what “others have decided is best for me.”

Maynard said she would wait until she could no longer feel joy in living but that her great fear was waiting too long. Under the requirements of the Oregon law, she would have to be able to take, and swallow, the lethal prescription without any assistance.

She concluded: “My goal, of course, is to influence this policy for positive change and I would like to see all Americans have access to the same health care rights.” Currently, five states — Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana and New Mexico — allow physician-assisted dying.

Her death brings a unique element to the movement in the age of social media because the conversation has included younger people.

“She’s changed the debate by changing the audience of the debate,” Abraham Schwab, an associate professor of philosophy at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, told the Associated Press.

One commenter on Facebook said Sunday evening, “Rest in peace, the pain is gone.” Another wrote, “May you find comfort and peace now. Rest peacefully!”

Her obituary, on the organization’s web site, concludes with her words: “It is people who pause to appreciate life and give thanks who are happiest. If we change our thoughts, we change our world! Love and peace to you all.”

About the author

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman specializes in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics. She also writes frequently on biomedical ethics and end-of-life-issues

About the author

Jessica Durando

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