On Monday, we shared the story of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman who in March was diagnosed with the deadliest form of brain cancer — glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), which at the point of diagnosis typically allows sufferers 14.6 months to live. Brittany was given six months.
As Brittany, her new husband, and their family considered her prospects, they saw a future of aggressive chemo — full-brain radiation that would burn off Brittany's hair and cover her scalp with burns, as well as inflict added pain and fatigue in Brittany's last months of life. They also saw another option: death with dignity. Brittany knew that her tumor would take her life slowly and horribly. So, she decided she would end it on her terms instead. Brittany moved with her family to Oregon (one of only five U.S. states that allows aid in dying) and obtained a prescription for a lethal medication. She plans to take this medication on November 1 — in bed, at home, surrounded by her loved ones.
Brittany is dedicating her final month to those loved ones, and to fighting for the universal right to aid in dying. On Monday, The Brittany Maynard Fund (in partnership with Compassion & Choices) launched to promote end-of-life rights, and Brittany's story exploded in the media, accompanied by a public outpouring of awe, support, admiration — and a few critiques. "Why choose a set date?" one commenter asked, regarding Brittany's selection of November 1 as the day she'll pass away. The commenter wondered why Brittany wouldn't simply wait until the moment she felt her suffering was too great to bear. Others proposed that Brittany hold on for as long as possible and wait for a miracle.
Last night, we spoke with Brittany about these opinions, her thought process over the months since her diagnosis, the difference between "suicide" and "aid in dying," and why everyone with terminal illness should have the right to make the choice that she has. Read on for Brittany's own words.