Brittany Maynard’s choice to relocate to Portland to end her own life through Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act catapulted the 29-year-old to the forefront of the end-of-life rights debate. After advocating for end-of-life rights through organizations like Compassion & Choices, Maynard ended her life by medicated suicide in November.
Oregon is currently one of only five states allowing euthanasia in certain circumstances. Suffering from terminal brain cancer, Maynard chose to die following a seizure – an occurrence growing increasingly common during the final days of her life.
Beside Brittany throughout her trials and final choice was her husband of two years, Dan Diaz. This week, Diaz opened up about his experiences with Maynard in her final days and the pain he still feels from her loss.
“I have good days and bad days,” Diaz told People Magazine. “But the feeling of loss is always there – particularly in the morning when I first wake up. And at night, when the house is quiet and I’m just there with the dogs. I think about her every day.”
Diaz recalled Maynard’s final day in an interview with “The Meredith Vieira Show.”
“The seizure that morning was a reminder of what she was risking because what was coming next was losing her eyesight, becoming paralyzed and an inability to speak,” Diaz said. “And then she would essentially be trapped in her own body.”
After a walk with her husband and dog, Maynard took the suicidal medication in the presence of her family members on Nov. 1.
“It truly was the most peaceful experience that you could ever hope for when you talk about a person’s passing,” Diaz said. “I carry [her driver license] with me and any time I open my wallet I see her smiling face.”
Maynard’s decision remains rooted in controversy. Her YouTube video pronouncing her decision to end her life garnered over 11 million views, advocating for the right of assisted suicide.
Diaz continues to advocate for Death With Dignity legislation, and remains proud of his wife’s courage. While expressing how deeply he misses her, Diaz recognized that it would be selfish for him to want her to stay and prolong her own suffering.
“She was surrounded by the people she loved, and her passing was peaceful,” Diaz said.
Brittany Maynard and her husband on a family trip to the Grand Canyon – the final adventure on her bucket list.
Brittany Maynard decided to follow through with her earlier decision to end her own life through doctor-prescribed lethal medication. Maynard died surrounded by her family and husband, Daniel Diaz, in the comfort of her bedroom on Saturday, November 1.
“I don’t want to die,” Maynard told CBS News in mid-October. “If anyone wants to hand me, like, a magical cure and save my life so that I can have children with my husband, you know, I will take them up on it.”
Compassion & Choices Spokesperson Sean Crowley explained that Maynard’s worsening condition convinced her to retract her recent decision to delay ending her own life.
“Brittany suffered increasingly frequent and longer seizures, severe head and neck pain, and stroke-like symptoms,” Crowley said. “She died as she intended – peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones.”
Maynard explained the agony of continued life in her own words: “I think until anyone has walked a mile in my shoes and knows what they’re facing and has felt the – like, just bone-splitting headaches that I get sometimes, or the seizures, or the inability to speak, or the moments where I’m looking at my husband’s face and I can’t think of his name.”
On October 23, Maynard shared the following note through Compassion & Choices – the organization she teamed with to advocate for end-of-life rights:
This week, my family and I traveled to the Grand Canyon, thanks to the kindness of Americans around the country who came forward to make my “bucket list” dream come true. The Canyon was breathtakingly beautiful, and I was able to enjoy my time with the two things I love most: my family and nature.
Sadly, it is impossible to forget my cancer. 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.
The seizure was a harsh reminder that my symptoms continue to worsen as the tumor runs its course. However, I find meaning and take pride that the Compassion & Choices movement is accelerating rapidly, thanks to supporters like you. I ask that you please continue to support C&C’s state-by-state efforts to make death-with-dignity laws available to all Americans. My dream is that every terminally ill American has access to the choice to die on their own terms with dignity. Please take an active role to make this a reality. The person you’re helping may be someone you love, or even in the future, yourself.
According to data from the Oregon Public Health Division, Maynard is the 7th person in the 18 to 34 age bracket to die from the ingestion of lethal medication under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act.
Crowley said yesterday that Maynard “is educating a whole new generation on this issue. She is the most natural spokesperson I have ever heard in my life. The clarity of her message is amazing. She is getting people to consider this issue who haven’t thought of it before. She’s a teacher by trade and, she’s teaching the world.”
Family, friends, and inspired persons around the country continue to mourn the loss of 29-year-old Maynard, who so courageously shared her story with the world. Compassion & Choices is expected to release a statement in the upcoming days.