While standing in line at the grocery store a few days ago, the cover of People magazine caught my eye. It was a photograph of Brittany Maynard, a 29 year-old woman with terminal brain cancer who has made a controversial choice to take her own life on November 1 of this year under Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide laws.
Brittany Maynard’s condition was discovered after she sought treatment for debilitating headaches last year. Initially, doctors believed she was experiencing migraines, but a brain scan confirmed the worst – she had terminal brain cancer.
She had surgery to remove part of the tumor, but it grew back with a vengeance. Her prognosis is grim. Doctors say she has just six months to live and that there are no available treatments to save her life. She now deals with debilitating headaches and seizures, which sometimes leave her unable to speak clearly.
Although certain treatments, such as full brain radiation, may have extended her life, they would have caused significant side effects, which Brittany believes would destroy the time she had left. Allowing the cancer to take its course will likely result in significant pain, personality changes, and physical impairment, something she doesn’t want to endure or have her family watch her endure.
So she and her husband relocated from California to Oregon earlier this year to establish residency. Oregon is one of just five states in our country that allows doctors to prescribe a legal dose of medication to mentally competent adults with six months or less to live, which the patient then self-administers to end his or her own life.
She plans to take the lethal dose of medication on November 1, after her husband’s birthday but before hers, with her husband, mother, stepfather, and best friend by her side.
In the People magazine article, Brittany says:
“I don’t want to die but I am dying. My [cancer] is going to kill me, and it’s a terrible, terrible way to die. So to be able to die with my family with me, to have control over my own mind, which I would stand to lose – to go with dignity is less terrifying.”
You may think that Brittany’s diagnosis has left her suicidal, but she insists that is not the case in an article she wrote for CNN.com.
I’ve had the medication for weeks. I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.
Brittany’s decision is not without controversy, and there have been many who have implored her to change her mind. For example, a 30 year old Catholic seminarian with terminal brain cancer wrote this article arguing that “[s]uffering is not worthless, and our lives are not our own to take.”
As I read the article about Brittany’s decision, I tried to put myself in her place and in the place of her spouse. I couldn’t imagine having to endure the suffering that came with her diagnosis or watching someone I loved endure it. On the other hand, I also couldn’t imagine going to bed one night knowing that I would end my life the next day or knowing that someone I loved would end his or her own life.
Her situation is truly heartbreaking!
Regardless of your position on this controversial issue, I’m sure you’ll appreciate her insight about pursuing the most important things in life. She says in an article she wrote for Today.com:
“[I]f I have any advice to share, I would just say: Pay attention to the relationships you cultivate in life, and do not miss the chance to tell those you love how very much you love them. Seek out real meaning in your life, build from your passions, and stand up for what you truly believe in and support.”
You can watch Brittany share her story in the video above. Then tell me what you think in the comment section below.