Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with brain cancer on New Year's Day 2014, and after surgeries were unsuccessful to stop the tumor growth, the 29-year-old was told she had six months to live. Rather than continue treatment to extend her life, such as full brain radiation, or spend her last days in hospice care, Maynard is choosing "death with dignity," according to a CNN op-ed published Tuesday.
Researching care and treatment options, Maynard and her family decided to move to Oregon, a state which has a death-with-dignity law. "I did not want this nightmare scenario for my family, so I started researching death with dignity. It is an end-of-life option for mentally competent, terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live. It would enable me to use the medical practice of aid in dying: I could request and receive a prescription from a physician for medication that I could self-ingest to end my dying process if it becomes unbearable," Maynard said in the op-ed.
Oregon passed the Death with Dignity Act in 1994. It was later challenged in 2006 in the U.S. Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Oregon but upheld. Oregon is one of four states where assisted suicide is legal; the others are Washington, Vermont and New Mexico. A defense for assisted suicide can be raised in Montana, following a state supreme court decision in 2009.
Maynard was recently married and was about to start a family. After months of painful headaches, however, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. After the initial surgeries, a craniotomy to access the brain and a partial temporal lobectomy (or the removal of a portion of the temporal lobe), the tumor returned.
Maynard established residency in Oregon, and prior to her choice to end her life, she is advocating for similar laws in California and across the U.S.