U.S. right-to-die advocate ends life

Nov 03, 2014, 7:52 AM EST
Brittany Maynard.
AFP/Getty Images

Brittany Maynard, the terminally ill cancer patient whose viral YouTube video reignited the debate on assisted-suicide, ended her life on Saturday. The BBC reports:

Mrs Maynard and her husband moved from California to Oregon, where assisted-suicide has been legal since 1997. Oregon's Death with Dignity Act allows terminally ill residents to obtain lethal prescriptions from doctors.

Since 1997, 1,173 people were granted lethal prescriptions and 752 patients used it to end their own lives.

Mrs Maynard, 29, who was suffering from a terminal brain cancer, died at home after administering lethal drugs on Saturday. She died "in the arms of her loved ones," a spokesman for the campaign group Compassion & Choices said.

Sean Crowley said Mrs Maynard was suffering from increasingly severe seizures and head and neck pains which had at times limited her ability to speak.

In the weeks leading up to her death, Brittany Maynard became the face of the nation’s right-to-die debate. Critics called her case exploitation. Advocates argued she was making her mark. Maynard said she just wanted to leave a worthy legacy. And now that she’s gone, the trail she left behind may bring the physician-assisted suicide movement–and the deep divide about it–to a younger generation. The Washington Post reports:

Maynard, 29, died Saturday at her home in Portland, Ore., after taking lethal drugs prescribed by her physician. It was a decision she made earlier this year after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given six months to live.

Arthur Caplan, of New York University’s Division of Medical Ethics, wrote that because Maynard was “young, vivacious, attractive … and a very different kind of person” from the average patient seeking physician-assisted suicide, she “changes the optics of the debate.”

In Oregon, the median age of someone who uses the state’s law to die is 71.

Only six people younger than 34, like Maynard, have used it. “Now we have a young woman getting people in her generation interested in the issue,” Caplan wrote in article published on Medscape.

“Critics are worried about her partly because she’s speaking to that new audience, and they know that the younger generation of America has shifted attitudes about gay marriage and the use of marijuana, and maybe they are going to have that same impact in pushing physician-assisted suicide forward.

“She may change politics right here.” Her story commanded national attention.

Before she died, she launched her own campaign with Compassion & Choices, an advocacy group for the terminally ill. She drew support from lawmakers in Connecticut and New Jersey.