US woman chooses right-to-die, ends life
US woman chooses right-to-die, ends life
“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,”the 29-year-old wrote on Facebook from her Portland home over the weekend.
“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!,” she signed off.
Since her diagnosis with stage 4 glioblastoma, Maynard has been making headlines as the face of the right-to-die movement.
The young woman announced to the world that she intended to end her life – under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act – having been told she only had six months to live.
“My glioblastoma is going to kill me and that’s out of my control,” she told reporters last month of her decision.
“I’ve discussed with many experts how I would die from it and it’s a terrible, terrible way to die. So being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying.”
At the start of October she launched an online video campaign with an end-of-life choice advocacy organization, Compassion & Choices, fighting for expanding death with dignity laws to other states in the US.
“For people to argue against this choice for sick people really seems evil to me. They try to mix it up with suicide and that’s really unfair, because there’s not a single part of me that wants to die. But I am dying.”
Arriving at her decision was a gradual one, she said.
“It’s not a decision you make one day and you snap your fingers,” Maynard argued, adding that she began thinking about death with dignity in January – when she was first diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour – after coming across an article on it while researching possible treatments.
“Really, from the beginning, all the doctors said when you have a glioma you’re going to die. You can just Google it. People don’t survive this disease. Not yet.”
Doctors removed as much of the tumour as they could, but it came back larger than ever two months later, she said. After researching her options, she decided not to try chemotherapy or radiation.
“They didn’t seem to make sense for me, because of the level of side effects I would suffer and it wouldn’t save my life. I’ve been told pretty much no matter what, I’m going to die – and treatments would extend my life but affect the quality pretty negatively.
In June she decided to move to Oregon with her husband, Dan Diaz, mother, Debbie Ziegler, 56 , and her stepfather, Gary Holmes, 72, so she could have access to the state’s Death with Dignity Act, which allows doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to certain terminally ill patients.
Maynard originally said she had chosen Nov. 1 to end her life, but on Thursday released another video saying she might not go ahead with it on that date.
“I still smile and laugh with my family and friends enough that it doesn’t seem like the right time now,” she said in the video recording, “but it will come because I feel myself getting sicker; it’s happening each week.”
The brave young woman spent the last months of her life making the most of the time she had left, travelling to Alaska, British Colombia and Yellowstone National Park with her loved ones.
She also took a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon – a place she’d been longing to see before she died.
“It was breathtakingly beautiful,” she had said at the time.
The following morning, she experienced her “worst seizure” so far. “The seizure was a harsh reminder that my symptoms continue to worsen as the tumour runs its course.”
Maynard said she was deeply touched by the “outpouring of support” she received after going public with her diagnosis and her decision.
“I want to thank people for that, for the words of kindness, for the time they’ve taken in personal ways,” she said.
“And then beyond that, to encourage people to make a difference,” she said. “If they can relate to my story, if they agree with this issue on a philosophical level, to get out there and do what we need to do to make a change in this country.”
“For me what matters most is the way I’m remembered by my family and my husband as a good woman who did my best to be a good wife and a good daughter,” she said.
“Beyond that, getting involved with this campaign, I hope to be making a difference here,” she said. “If I’m leaving a legacy, it’s to change this health-care policy or be a part of this change of this health care policy so it becomes available to all Americans. That would be an enormous contribution to make, even if I’m just a piece of it.”
Before she died, Maynard asked her husband and her mother if they would carry on the work she started to get death with dignity passed in every state.
“I want to work on the cause. I have so much admiration for people who are terminally ill and just fight and fight. They are so dignified and brave. This is a different choice, but it is also brave and dignified.”
Upstairs in the home she shares with her family are neatly wrapped Christmas and birthday gifts for her loved ones for the next year.
“She made it clear she wants me to live a good life,” her mother said of Maynard, who is an only child.
And for her husband, “I hope he moves on and becomes a father,” she said. “There’s no part of me that wants him to live out the rest of his life just missing his wife.”