Terminal Cancer Patient Completes Bucket List, Ready For Death With Dignity

death with dignity

By Brad Broker

Brittany Maynard, the terminally-ill woman who moved to Oregon to legally take her own life under the state’s Death with Dignity Act, has completed her bucket list just days before her self-imposed last day of life.

Maynard, who suffers from a glioblastoma brain tumor, crossed off the final item of the list last week when she visited the Grand Canyon with her family.  “The Canyon was breathtakingly beautiful, and I was able to enjoy my time with the two things I love most: my family and nature,” Maynard wrote on her website.

“Sadly, it is impossible to forget my cancer,” she continued. “Severe headaches and neck pain are never far away, and unfortunately the next morning I had my worst seizure thus far. My speech was paralyzed for quite a while after I regained consciousness, and the feeling of fatigue continued for the rest of the day.”

Glioblastomas are usually highly malignant tumors found in the supportive tissue of the brain.  Because of ample blood flow in the area, the tumors reproduce quickly, invade and live within normal brain tissue.  This grade 4 tumor is often asymptomatic until it reaches an enormous size.  Prognosis ranges from 3 months to 2 years, depending on treatment.

Maynard discovered in April that she had six months to live. “Because my tumor is so large,” she wrote in a CNN article, “doctors prescribed full brain radiation. I read about the side effects: The hair on my scalp would have been singed off. My scalp would be left covered with first-degree burns. My quality of life, as I knew it, would be gone.”

Instead of spending her short remaining time in palliative treatment, which could have prolonged her life while possibly causing unbearable pain in the process, Maynard chose the more controversial death with dignity path.

“After months of research, my family and I reached a heartbreaking conclusion: There is no treatment that would save my life, and the recommended treatments would have destroyed the time I had left,” Maynard said.

Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act allows terminally-ill residents to end their lives through the voluntary, self-administration of lethal medications, which must be prescribed by a physician within the state.  Washington state, Vermont and Montana have similar laws. Patients, who must be terminally ill with a demonstrated prognosis of six months or less, must make several requests to an attending, state licensed physician, who provides a prescription for an oral dosage of a barbiturate.

Brittany Maynard is scheduled to take her life on November 1.

What are your thoughts, as providers and patients, of death with dignity laws?

3 comments

  1. Robert Frischer, M.D.

    God bless her. I would want to do the same thing.

  2. I think that every adult should be given the opportunity to make the decision to end their life with dignity.

  3. It is truly a sad commentary on our society that, outside of the few enlightened States mentioned in the article, individuals with terminal illnesses, who have not been deemed legally incompetent (unable to make informed decisions) are prohibited from deciding when enough is enough. Many cultures, usually considered “primitive”, have processes for minimizing the emotional and physical and toll on individuals, and their families, by having socially acceptable means of ending one’s life with dignity.

    We put animals down when they are terminally ill or injured, even if we consider them “family members”, because we don’t want them to suffer. Yet we label medical practitioners, who advocate what we choose to label “assisted suicide”, as killers. The closest thing we have to making our own life/death decision is signing Advanced Directives when we are admitted to a hospital. But even there our legal system can circumvent our last wishes.

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