November 1 is the date that 29-year-old Brittany Maynard has chosen to end her life. Maynard was diagnosed with one of the deadliest forms of cancer, Gliobastoma, on New Year’s Day of 2014. After undergoing partial craniotomy and a partial resection of her temporal lobe, Maynard was told in April that she only had six months to live. Instead of choosing to get treatment that would render her physically unable to enjoy her last days alive, Maynard and her husband Dan Diaz then chose to move from California to Oregon, which is one of five states in the US with a “Death With Dignity Act.”
Maynard is relieved that the option of a physician-assisted suicide assures her that she doesn’t have to go through periods of losing consciousness or losing her speech, which are effects of having a brain tumor. However, she has already had to live with the dramatic changes brought on by her illness, from experiencing seizures and gaining 25 pounds to giving up her dream of having children and her valued teaching job.
— Eyewitness News (@ABC7NY) October 17, 2014
Her story has reignited the debate on physician-assisted suicide, and made Maynard the target of criticism due to religious concerns about the issue. “I struggle to even think of this woman’s plan to end her own life prematurely, as courageous. Because it is not. Rather it is anything but. In fact, in my mind, it is a self-destructive act of selfish cowardice to end your own life before God’s perfect timing,” wrote Chaplain Adele M. Gill on Catholic Online.
Only Washington, Oregon, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico allow physician-assisted suicide, but the organization for which Maynard now volunteers, Compassion & Choices, is reportedly working to make it legal in other states. Maynard recounted how moving to Oregon to avail of death by dignity required a tremendous amount of resources and support from friends and family that may not be available to other people. “I had to find new physicians, establish residency in Portland, search for a new home, obtain a new driver’s license, change my voter registration and enlist people to take care of our animals, and my husband, Dan, had to take a leave of absence from his job. The vast majority of families do not have the flexibility, resources and time to make all these changes,” Maynard said.
“I didn’t launch this campaign because I wanted attention; in fact, it’s hard for me to process it all. I did this because I want to see a world where everyone has access to death with dignity, as I have had. My journey is easier because of this choice,” said Maynard.