The death over the weekend of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old terminally ill California woman who moved to Portland to use the state’s Death with Dignity act has triggered an outpouring of reaction from readers and put Oregon in the national spotlight.
Maynard’s death was confirmed Sunday by the nonprofit Compassion Choices, the organization that had chronicled Maynard’s decision in a series of videos. Earlier this year, Maynard was diagnosed with a grade four glioblastoma, a highly malignant and aggressive form of brain tumor.
Maynard’s death prompted national media outlets to explore Oregon’s Death with Dignity act. Vox puts Oregon into national perspective, reporting that Oregon doctors turn away most people who seek lethal prescriptions.
Reports Sarah Kliff:
Oregon is one of five states with an aid-in-dying policy, and its law, passed in 1997, is the oldest in the country. It isn’t used by many patients, and it works differently from how many imagine assisted suicide to be.
The Huffington Post also looks at what Maynard’s death means, exploring how major religions view physician-assisted death and the disagreement among some about whether Maynard committed suicide. Writer Cathy Lynn Grossman writes that in states without physician-assisted suicide laws, some terminally ill patients choose to go without food and water.
No one knows how many people, facing a terminal illness or debilitating condition, end their lives by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED), but the method is drawing increased public attention.
Compassion Choices offers counseling and a how-to guidebook offering “peace at life’s end — anywhere.” Dying With Dignity in Canada, where physician-assisted death is illegal, offers similar guidance and a DVD called “Dying Wish” featuring the last days of a man who chose VSED.
On Twitter, Maynard’s death sparked swift reaction worldwide. Many on Twitter are using #diewithdignity to talk about Maynard.
In a recent essay published by Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams, who has written about her own experience with stage 4 cancer, wrote that “the only thing I now know for certain is that nobody on earth can second-guess Brittany Maynard’s choices.
“(U)ntil you are in a position to see your own expiration date coming ever more sharply into focus, until you are facing the pain and debilitation of a difficult end, you just don’t know what you would do. Even when you are in that position, you are making judgment calls, right up to the last moment.”
— Noelle Crombie