Terminally ill 29-year-old Brittany Maynard has released a new video as part of her joint campaign with Compassion & Choices to expand access to death with dignity in California and other states nationwide.
Brittany has an aggressive, fatal form of brain cancer, diagnosed on New Year’s Day. She and her family took on the incredibly difficult task of moving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Portland, Oregon, to access Oregon’s death-with-dignity law authorizing the medical practice of aid in dying. This medical practice offers terminally ill, mentally competent adults the option to request a prescription for medication they can take to end their dying process if it becomes unbearable.
Nearly nine million have watched her first video since it was posted on YouTube Oct. 6. And 3.5 million people have visited the campaign website to help expand access to death with dignity in Brittany’s name.
“Brittany is a teacher by training, and now she is teaching the world that everyone deserves the opportunity to die with dignity. She is changing hearts and minds on an unprecedented scale on this basic human-rights issue,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, who recently met with Brittany and her family. An attorney, who was an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years, Coombs Lee coauthored the law Brittany is accessing.
On New Year’s Day, after months of suffering through severe headaches, Brittany learned she had brain cancer. Three months later, after undergoing surgery, she found her brain tumor had grown massively. That is when physicians told her she would likely die within months. Brittany has had her life-ending medication since shortly after that. She tentatively planned to take the medication in early November, but she has made it clear that timing depends entirely on how rapidly her cancer progresses and the severity of her symptoms.
“If November 2 comes along and I’ve passed, I hope my family is still proud of me and the choices I made,” says Brittany in the new video at www.thebrittanyfund.org. “And if November 2 comes along and I’m still alive, I know that we’ll just still be moving forward as a family out of love for each other and that that decision will come later.”
“It sounds so cliché: ‘We take things one day at a time,’ but it’s like, that’s the only way to get through this,” says Brittany’s husband, Dan Diaz, in the video. “You take away all of the material stuff, all the nonsense that we all seem to latch onto as a society, and you realize that those moments are really what matter.”
“The worst thing that could happen to me is that I wait too long … My most terrifying set of seizures was about a week or so ago,” Brittany says in the video, which was recorded Oct. 13-14. “I remember looking at my husband’s face at one point and thinking, ‘I know this is my husband, but I can’t say his name,’ and ended up going to the hospital.”
“It’s not my job to tell her how to live, and it’s not my job to tell her how to die,” says Brittany’s mom, Debbie Ziegler, in the video. “It’s my job to love her through it.”
“Well if all my dreams came true I would somehow survive this, but I mostly likely won’t,” Brittany says in the video. “So beyond that, having been an only child for my mother, I want her to recover from this and not break down, you know, not suffer from any kind of depression. My husband is such a lovely man, I want him to – you know I understand everyone needs to grieve – but I want him to be happy, so I want him to have a family.”
“My goal of course is to influence this policy for positive change, and I would like to see all Americans have access to the same healthcare rights,” Brittany concludes in the video. “But beyond that public policy goal, my goals really are quite simple, and they mostly do boil down to my family and friends, and making sure they all know how important they are to me and how much I love them.”
In addition to Oregon, aid in dying is authorized in Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico. Compassion & Choices has campaigns to authorize this medical practice in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
(Source: Compassion & Choices)