“I think in the beginning my family members wanted a miracle; they wanted a cure for my cancer,” Brittany Maynard said. “When we all sat down and looked at the facts, there isn’t a single person that loves me that wishes me more pain and more suffering.”

On Saturday, November 1, 2014, Brittany Maynard ended her life by taking a combination of lethal drugs that had been prescribed to her by a physician under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. Maynard was 29 years old and had been diagnosed with terminal glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer that affects each person suffering from it differently depending on its location. In Brittany’s case, she suffered from seizures, stroke-like symptoms including memory loss, headaches, and rapid weight gain, among others. Maynard had been told she had approximately six months left to live in April of this year.

Maynard publicly discussed her decision to die and her hope that deciding to end her own life on her terms would reignite a discussion about the right of an individual to end their life with dignity. Currently, only three states recognize the right to physician-assisted suicide: Orgeon, Washington, and Vermont. In Montana and New Mexico, court decisions have permitted the practice but no law has been codified to provide the right in those states.

Facing her diagnosis, Maynard received support from her family and activist groups. She lived out the last months of her life pursuing goals and checking items off her “bucket list.” Her final excursion was to see the Grand Canyon.

Compassion and Choices is a group that is seeking to see the expansion of end-of-life options and documented many of Maynard’s wishes regarding her decision to end her own life, rather than continue to suffer from her illness.

Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion and Choices, said on PBS NewsHour, “Americans find it hard to believe they will die and if they will die they find it hard to believe it wouldn’t be peaceful like it is in the movies. Brittany is bringing that reality home to people.”


Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow him on Twitter @Joshual33.