Terminally ill woman follows through on decision to end her life, dies in Oregon

Terminally ill woman dies with doctor's assistance


A terminally ill woman who had decided to end her life after being told her illness would be long and painful has died, advocacy organization Compassion & Choices has confirmed.

Brittany Maynard, 29, who moved to Oregon, where the “Death with Dignity Act” allows people to choose to die using medication, was diagnosed with a progressive brain tumor called glioblastoma multiforme. The average life expectancy is 14 months.

Compassion & Choices said in a statement that Maynard took lethal drugs prescribed by a doctor on Saturday and was surrounded by her family. 

"She died as she intended— peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones," the statement said. 

The group said the Maynard family has asked for privacy. The family did not release a separate statement confirming the death. 

Her story went viral after she posted a video on her website, The Brittany Maynard Fund, explaining her decision to end her life rather than try to fight the disease.

“If all my dreams came true, I would somehow survive this,” she said in a video. “But I likely won’t.”

Maynard chose Nov. 1 to die, but later said she may postpone the date because she still shared enough joy and laughter with her family and friends that “it doesn’t seem like the right time right now, but it will come because I feel myself getting sicker; it’s happening each week.”

Maynard’s last days were spent completing a bucket list that included a trip to the Grand Canyon, and surrounding herself with her family.

The California native said she was taking walks with her family and husband, which “give her the greatest feelings of health I have these days."

In a recorded video, Maynard said the worst thing that could happen to her— the most terrifying aspect— would be to wait too long and her autonomy be taken away by the disease.

About a week before she filmed her last video, Maynard had her most terrifying set of seizures, two in a day, which is unusual.

“Sadly, it is impossible to forget my cancer. Severe headaches and neck pain are never far away, and unfortunately the next morning I had my worst seizure thus far. My speech was paralyzed for quite a while after I regained consciousness, and the feeling of fatigue continued for the rest of the day,” Maynard said on her website.

“I remember looking at my husband’s face and  thinking,‘I know this is my husband but I can’t say his name,’ and ended up going to the hospital for that one.”

Dan, her husband, said they were taking things one day at a time. Doctors made the devastating diagnosis shortly after the couple's wedding last year. 

“You take away all the material stuff, all the nonsense we seem to latch on to as a society and you realize that those moments are really what matter,” he said.

Maynard said she has gained 25 pounds in the past three months because of her prescription medications and that she finds it hard to look at herself in photos or the mirror because her body has become so unrecognizable.

Since Maynard’s story went viral, she has been working to raise awareness of end-of-life rights by working with Compassion & Choices, and The Brittany Maynard Fund. 

Oregon was the first U.S. 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; it is illegal for a doctor to administer it.

More than 750 people in Oregon used the law to die as of Dec. 31, 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. Some examples of documentation include a rental agreement, a voter registration card or a driver's license.

Oregon voters approved the Oregon law 1994, then reaffirmed it with 60 percent of the vote in 1997.

Four other states— Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico— allow patients to seek aid in dying.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.