By Grace King
Diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard is planning to end her life Nov. 1.
Maynard began getting severe headaches a little over a year ago, shortly after she was married. She was diagnosed with a stage four glioblastoma brain tumor, one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer. After researching treatment options, Maynard realized she had two choices: die slowly and painfully or die with dignity.
Maynard is choosing the latter.
She and her family made the decision to move from California to Oregon, where she met the criteria for the Death with Dignity Act.
“When my suffering becomes too great, I can say to all those I love, ‘I love you; come be by my side, and come say goodbye as I pass into whatever’s next.’ I can’t imagine trying to rob anyone else of that choice,” Maynard wrote on CNN.com.
The Oregon Death with Dignity Act was enacted in 1997. It allows terminally ill residents to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications described by a physician, according to Oregon Health Authority. Oregon is one of five states where assisted suicide is legal.
Since the act was passed, 1,100 people have obtained the prescription, and 752 people have used it. The median age for those people was 71, and none of them was under 35, CNN stated.
“Because [Maynard] is young and vibrant and articulate, she has generated a lot of attention,” board member of the Death with Dignity National center, George Eighmey, said to CNN.
Maynard already had the prescription filled and said that now that it is in her possession, she has experienced a tremendous sense of relief.
“Having this choice at the end of my life has become incredibly important. It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty and pain,” Maynard wrote.
The debate isn’t just in the U.S. In the UK, 86-year-old Jean Davies starved herself to death to relieve her suffering, The Independent reported. Davies stopped drinking water on Sept. 16, and passed away Oct. 1. She did not have a terminal illness, but suffered from back pain and fainting episodes that “made her life uncomfortable,” The Independent reported.
NBC reported that “beyond Brittany: assisted suicides happen in every state, insiders say.”
“It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty and pain”
“I have these conversations with patients [about physician assisted suicide], and it’s really heartbreaking, and based in fear,” Los Angeles doctor Laura Mosqueda said. “If euthanasia was allowed where I work, I would be willing to participate in assisting people. But it’s not, so I don’t,” she said to NBC.
Sandeep Jauhar, a cardiologist, wrote on CNN about a patient who asked her to assist in her suicide. The patient was an 84-year-old woman with end-stage heart failure who had traveled back and forth from the hospital several times already.
“I’d rather be dead,” the patient told Jauhar, who was unable to do anything other than make her comfortable.
“As a doctor, I would like assisted suicide to be safe and available, but rare,” Jauhar wrote.
There are also critics of physician-assisted suicide.
Joni Eareckson Tada, founder of the Christian Institute on Disability, wrote on Religious News Service, “I believe Brittany is missing a critical factor in her formula for death: God. The journey Brittany – for that matter, all of us – will undertake on the other side of death is the most important venture on which we will ever embark.”
Chaplain Adele M. Gill wrote on Catholic Online, “I struggle to even think of this woman’s plan to end her own life prematurely as courageous. It is a self-destructive act of selfish cowardice to end your own life before God’s perfect timing.”