Woman advocate for 'death with dignity' commits suicide

Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer, committed suicide in Oregon yesterday according to friends and the "right to die" organization that publicized her decision.

CNN:

"Brittany chose to make a well thought out and informed choice to Die With Dignity in the face of such a terrible, painful, and incurable illness," a post on her website said. "She moved to Oregon to pass away in a little yellow house she picked out in the beautiful city of Portland."

In a statement, Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life choice advocacy group that has been working closely with Maynard, said she "died as she intended -- peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones."

Maynard passed away Saturday, said the group, which released an official obituary.

The epitaph contained a final message from Maynard, who expressed a note of deep thanks to all of her supporters, whom she "sought out like water" during her life and illness.

"It is people who pause to appreciate life and give thanks who are happiest. If we change our thoughts, we change our world! Love and peace to you all," she said.

Maynard graduated from University of California, Berkeley, and earned a Masters in Education from University of California, Irvine, according to the obituary. She was a world traveler who volunteered at a local animal rescue organization before her diagnosis and lived 29 years of "generosity, compassion, education, travel, and humor," it said.

Maynard is survived by her husband and his family, her mother and stepfather.

"While she had longed for children of her own, she left this world with zero regrets on time spent, places been, or people she loved in her 29 years," the obituary said.

Maynard's story spread rapidly on social media as a video explaining her choice garnered more than 9 million views on YouTube.

She became a prominent spokeswoman for the "death with dignity" movement, which advocates that terminally ill patients be allowed to receive medication that will let them die on their own terms. She also became a lightning rod for criticism from people who oppose that approach.

"I quickly decided that death with dignity was the best option for me and my family," Maynard wrote in an opinion column for CNN explaining her choice. "We had to uproot from California to Oregon, because Oregon is one of only five states where death with dignity is authorized."

How do you die with "dignity" when you allow the media to make a circus of your decision?

Putting aside religious strictures against suicide that have governed us for centuries, there are plenty of reasons to either severely restrict this practice or ban it.  As many mental health professionals have pointed out, being very sick brings on a deep depression in many people, making them incompetent to decide whether or not to end their lives.  Clinical depression alters the chemistry of the brain, bringing on thoughts of suicide that someone who is not depressed may not even experience.  There are too many questions about what constitutes "competent" to allow this practice except in very rare circumstances.

There are also questions about allowing those with early-stage Alzheimer's disease or dementia to make this decision.  Suppose such a patient had some greedy relatives who don't want to wait for their inheritance.  Such a vulnerable senior might be manuevered into taking his or her own life.

Palliative care of those in extreme pain is also improving dramatically as guidelines change so that ever more powerful pain-relieving mediication can be administered.  The need to put oneself out of one's misery is receding as more and more is understood about how the brain processes opiates and other synthetic compounds.

There is a clash here between the need to respect all life at any stage and the need to allow people to make their own decisions about their own lives.  But big questions surround these laws, which appear to be drawn too broadly.  Better to err on the side of caution than allow some depressed individual to make a mistake he or she might regret.

Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer, committed suicide in Oregon yesterday according to friends and the "right to die" organization that publicized her decision.

CNN:

"Brittany chose to make a well thought out and informed choice to Die With Dignity in the face of such a terrible, painful, and incurable illness," a post on her website said. "She moved to Oregon to pass away in a little yellow house she picked out in the beautiful city of Portland."

In a statement, Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life choice advocacy group that has been working closely with Maynard, said she "died as she intended -- peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones."

Maynard passed away Saturday, said the group, which released an official obituary.

The epitaph contained a final message from Maynard, who expressed a note of deep thanks to all of her supporters, whom she "sought out like water" during her life and illness.

"It is people who pause to appreciate life and give thanks who are happiest. If we change our thoughts, we change our world! Love and peace to you all," she said.

Maynard graduated from University of California, Berkeley, and earned a Masters in Education from University of California, Irvine, according to the obituary. She was a world traveler who volunteered at a local animal rescue organization before her diagnosis and lived 29 years of "generosity, compassion, education, travel, and humor," it said.

Maynard is survived by her husband and his family, her mother and stepfather.

"While she had longed for children of her own, she left this world with zero regrets on time spent, places been, or people she loved in her 29 years," the obituary said.

Maynard's story spread rapidly on social media as a video explaining her choice garnered more than 9 million views on YouTube.

She became a prominent spokeswoman for the "death with dignity" movement, which advocates that terminally ill patients be allowed to receive medication that will let them die on their own terms. She also became a lightning rod for criticism from people who oppose that approach.

"I quickly decided that death with dignity was the best option for me and my family," Maynard wrote in an opinion column for CNN explaining her choice. "We had to uproot from California to Oregon, because Oregon is one of only five states where death with dignity is authorized."

How do you die with "dignity" when you allow the media to make a circus of your decision?

Putting aside religious strictures against suicide that have governed us for centuries, there are plenty of reasons to either severely restrict this practice or ban it.  As many mental health professionals have pointed out, being very sick brings on a deep depression in many people, making them incompetent to decide whether or not to end their lives.  Clinical depression alters the chemistry of the brain, bringing on thoughts of suicide that someone who is not depressed may not even experience.  There are too many questions about what constitutes "competent" to allow this practice except in very rare circumstances.

There are also questions about allowing those with early-stage Alzheimer's disease or dementia to make this decision.  Suppose such a patient had some greedy relatives who don't want to wait for their inheritance.  Such a vulnerable senior might be manuevered into taking his or her own life.

Palliative care of those in extreme pain is also improving dramatically as guidelines change so that ever more powerful pain-relieving mediication can be administered.  The need to put oneself out of one's misery is receding as more and more is understood about how the brain processes opiates and other synthetic compounds.

There is a clash here between the need to respect all life at any stage and the need to allow people to make their own decisions about their own lives.  But big questions surround these laws, which appear to be drawn too broadly.  Better to err on the side of caution than allow some depressed individual to make a mistake he or she might regret.