Terminally ill cancer sufferer, 29, takes life

The woman with brain cancer who revived a national debate in the US about physician-assisted suicide ended her life on Saturday by swallowing lethal drugs made available under an Oregon law allowing terminally ill people to choose when to die.

Maynard, who would have turned 30 on November 19, had been in the spotlight since publicising that she and her husband, Dan Diaz, moved to Portland from Northern California so she could take advantage of the Oregon law. She told journalists she planned to die on November 1, shortly after her husband’s birthday, but reserved the right to move the date forward or push it back.

Maynard ended her suffering right on schedule after hinting at a possible delay in a video released last week.

“She died as she intended — peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones,” said Sean Crowley, a spokesman for the advocacy group Compassion & Choices.

“As symptoms grew more severe, she chose to abbreviate the dying process by taking the aid-in-dying medication she had received months ago.”

The issue of physician-assisted suicide is not new, but Maynard’s youth and vitality before she became ill brought the discussion to a younger generation.

Working with Compassion & Choices, Maynard used her story to speak out.

Maynard’s choice was not without detractors. Some religious groups and others opposed to physician-assisted suicide voiced objections.

“We are saddened by the fact that this young woman gave up hope, and now our concern is for others with terminal illnesses who may contemplate following her example,” said Janet Morana, executive director of the group Priests for Life, said. “Brittany’s death was not a victory for a political cause. It was a tragedy, hastened by despair and aided by the culture of death invading our country.”

Oregon was the first US state to make it legal for a doctor to prescribe a life-ending drug to a terminally ill patient of sound mind who makes the request. The patient must swallow the drug without help. More than 750 people in Oregon have used the law to die since the end of, 2013. The median age of the deceased is 71. Only six were younger than 35.

The state does not track how many terminally ill people move to Oregon to die. A patient must prove to a doctor that they are living in Oregon. Four other states — Washington, Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico — also allow patients to seek help to die.


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