Californians With Terminal Illness Can Now Die On Their Own Terms

Photo: Courtesy of The Brittany Maynard Fund.
The legacy of terminal cancer patient Brittany Maynard, who fought for the legalization of aid in dying and ended her life in 2014 at age 29, was felt today when California's End of Life Option Act went into effect. Under the act, patients with terminal illness and six months or fewer to live can obtain lethal drugs to take at the time they choose. To do so, they'll need to be deemed mentally competent and make written requests for the medication, as well as two oral requests 15 days apart from one another, and at least two doctors will need to confirm that they have a prognosis of under six months.

The End of Life Option Act was inspired in part by Maynard, a California resident whose decision to move to Oregon — one of three states, including Vermont and Washington, where terminal patients can access lethal medication — in order to end her life made national headlines in 2014. "I’m not suicidal...I think it’s a very big misconception that a lot of people have about death with dignity," Maynard told Refinery29 in an interview after she released a video about her choice in partnership with the organization Compassion & Choices. "There is a difference between a person who is dying and a person who is suicidal. I do not want to die. I am dying, and the way that my brain cancer would take me is terrible."

After Maynard's death, her widower, Dan Diaz, campaigned alongside Compassion & Choices for the passage of the End of Life Option Act, which California governor Jerry Brown signed on October 5 of last year. "I have...read the letters of those who support the bill, including heartfelt pleas from Brittany Maynard’s family," he wrote of his decision. "I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill."
Diaz echoed this emphasis on choice in a statement on the enactment of the act yesterday, The Huffington Post reports. "[Brittany] didn’t have to be consumed with that fear of that brutal dying process that was coming for her," he said. "This program, its very existence empowers the individual and it provides a great sense of control and relief." Now, terminally ill Californians won't have to leave the state to access that control.

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