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Terminally Ill Young, US Woman Plans Fatal Barbiturate Death, With Family Nearby

  1. Beenthere2Hippie
    View attachment 41198 OREGON - Brittany Maynard has ice-climbed in Ecuador, kayaked in Patagonia and climbed to the summit of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro. Last week she and her family took on Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, though through less strenuous means.

    “We had a beautiful day of driving what’s called the Fruit Loop out here,” says Maynard, 29. Next up? She really wants to see the Grand Canyon, says her mother, Debbie Ziegler, “So we’re going to try.”

    The Grand Canyon should have been one of dozens more adventures. Instead, a heartbroken Ziegler calls that hoped-for-trip her daughter’s “last hurrah.” Because on Nov. 1, if all goes as planned, Maynard, surrounded by her husband, Dan Diaz, Ziegler, her stepfather, Gary Holmes, and her best friend, will pull apart 100 capsules of the sedative secobarbital, dissolve them in water, drink it—and slip into a final, irreversible sleep.

    That life-ending act is perfectly legal in Portland, Oregon where the family moved shortly after Maynard was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor last spring. “I don’t want to die, but I am dying,” Maynard tells People. “My [cancer] is going to kill me, and it’s a terrible way to die. So to be able to die with my family with me, to have control of my own mind, which I would stand to lose—to go with dignity is less terrifying. When I look into both options, I have to die, I see this is far more humane."

    In going public with her controversial choice earlier this month, Maynard, a former teacher, became the unexpected face of the right-to-die movement box). Her emotional 6-minute video for the advocacy group Compassion & Choices has 7 million views to date. In a column that ran on CNN.com, she wrote, '1 would not tell anyone else they should choose death with dignity. My question is, Who thinks they have the right to tell me that I don't reserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain?"'

    Becoming a national symbol of anything was the last role Maynard imagined for herself. Growing up in Orange County, the only child of public school "was a very good little girl and wanted to excel at everything she tried," Ziegler, 56, says. A natural athlete and straight-A student-Maynard called her mother, upset, after getting her first B at the University of California, Berkeley-she got joy out of helping the less fortunate. As a teen she volunteered with the homeless and after college with orphans in Nepal.

    Her big heart was a big attraction for lifelong bachelor Dan Diaz, whom Maynard met in San Francisco. She's a great person to be around-attractive, energetic, outgoing," says Diaz, 43, a manager for a food company. Married Sept. 29, 2012, in the Sonoma Valley, they danced to Nat King Cole's "L-0-V-E" and kayaked by glaciers in Patagonia for their honeymoon.

    This year should have been their happiest: The couple had been trying for a baby. Instead, on New Year's Eve, mysterious headaches that had started on and off in April 2013 and that she'd seen a doctor about-she was told they were migraines-became unbearable.

    On Jan. 2, after a series of tests at a local hospital, she learned she had a "large" brain tumor. Doctors initially gave her three to five years to live and removed part of the tumor. But two months later it had grown back with such a vengeance they revised their prognosis, saying they though it was a glioblastoma and giving her only six months. View attachment 41201 With her family she searched desperately for a treatment that could save her life. "I've read more scholarly articles on my disease than anyone would care to," Maynard says. "We had stacks of paper everywhere. We were searching for a miracle and willing to travel out of the country. But there was nothing."

    The full-brain radiation she could opt to undergo might be brutal, possibly causing blindness and mental and physical impairment-and destroying her quality of life in the hope of maybe getting a few extra months. "It's not lifesaving," she says, "and ifs torturous." In her research she had come across articles on "death with dignity" states like Oregon. "I could request and receive a prescription from a physician for a medication that I could self-ingest to end my dying process if it becomes unbearable," she later wrote.

    "It made sense to me." With her decision made, she approached her mom and got the expected response. "I was still making my big filing cabinet of things we were going to try," Ziegler says. "I would cry if she brought it up. Finally she said, 'Mom. You have to talk to me about dying.' And I told my husband, 'She's right. We have to open our eyes.'"

    In June, Maynard and her family moved to Oregon, the first state to pass a right-to-die law. She selected Nov. I as the day on which she will likely put an end to her suffering-since it will be after her husband's birthday, on Oct. 26, and before her own 30th birthday, on Nov. 19.

    “The idea of celebrating my 30th birthday after getting this diagnosis," Maynard says, "would be difficult." Since then her condition has gotten worse. Swollen from medication she takes to control the inflammation in her brain and often fatigued, she wakes up every day with a mild-to-excruciating headache. "There are days she is nauseous," Diaz says. "There are days she has seizures. When they come on, she loses her ability to talk, and for 10 minutes after, she is talking gibberish. How much does one person tolerate?" Maynard says it's easier to bear the pain now that she knows she is in control.

    By making her decision, 'Tm choosing to suffer less, to put myself and my family through less pain. It's an
    enormous stress relief." That's left her space to make the most of her remaining days. In August a group of her girlfriends came up for an emotional visit. "She's been giving her things away," Ziegler says. "She gave her car to one of her friends and a special necklace and bracelet to another." She's also talked to Diaz about his life after she is gone. "She'll say, 'I want you to find joy--and please take care of my dogs,'" Diaz says breaking down. "I know I'm going to be heartbroken. But to dwell on that today means I'd ruin today. I just want to be with Brittany and enjoy our time now."

    Maynard knows nothing is set in stone: If Nov. I is a good day, she'll hold off. But she is a realist and she is ready. Christmas gifts for Diaz and the family are already wrapped and stored upstairs. And she has spoken with her mom about how they will meet once again. She's asked Ziegler and Holmes to visit the 15th-century Incan site of Machu Picchu in Peru. "It's a very sacred spiritual domain," Ziegler says. "She knows if we can feel her, it will be there." A peaceful thought-and one of the many things bringing Maynard comfort in these precious, final days. "I feel very fortunate," Maynard says, "to go surrounded by love."

    By Nicole Weisensee Egan - People Magazine-Vol. 82, No. 18/Oct. 27, 2014 Issue/Oct. 21, 2014
    Additional Reporting Tara Fowlder, Caitlin Keating
    Photos: Nigel Parry
    Newshawk Crew

    Author Bio

    BT2H is a retired news editor and writer from the NYC area who, for health reasons, retired to a southern US state early, and where BT2H continues to write and to post drug-related news to DF.


  1. Cwb20022
    Good for her. I mean not good. But she should be able to decide when she wants to end her life. She's dying no matter what. Why can't she end it on happy memories and proper good byes. No law should be able to tell me what to do with my life. Its not hurting anyone. In fact its saving her family and loved ones grief and sadness. Of watching her slowly decline. Until eventually dying. No one wants to witness there loved ones in pain and depressed.
  2. mrs.badger
    29 years old. Goddamn.
  3. Beenthere2Hippie
    When I put this article up, I knew it would draw both positive and negative responses. And that is alright with me. Hell. That's what news is all about: fact and our opinions of it. I do understand that as an international site, we draw people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds. Some have strong commitments to values we share, and some do not.

    But for me, I personally feel this is a long time coming and am fully glad to see it--if, that is--it is done for valid reasons (daunting illness, pain and hopelessness in the face of science) and responsibly, due to all the obvious pitfalls that could arise if laws on self-euthanasia are not concise and well covered properly by the particular place in the world that they happen to exist.

    I couldn't agree more, CW. And in fact I believe that Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana and New Mexico (all U.S. states with active right-to-die laws on the books) are all way ahead of much of the U.S., and many international countries as well, on the curve on this one.

    Outside of the U.S., Germany (physician assisted legal only, since 1751), Belgium (both physician and self euthanasia legal since 2002), Luxembourg (both forms legal since 2008), the Netherlands (both forms legal since 2001) and Switzerland (physician assisted only, since 1941) are also among countries where those in or facing a hopeless future in excruciating pain can die in dignity, as well as not cost their loved ones a huge emotional and financial toll that many survivors simply never recover from.

    And with the world population estimated to double to become 14% by 2040 (see estimate information here, ) as a realist (and a pretty damn old woman by then, if alive) I have to contend this a necessary option for many.
  4. Beenthere2Hippie
    PORTLAND - A young woman who moved to Oregon to take advantage of the state's assisted-suicide law took lethal drugs prescribed by a doctor and died, a spokesman said on Sunday.

    Brittany Maynard, 29, was diagnosed with brain cancer on New Year's Day and was later given six months to live. She and her husband, Dan Diaz, moved from California because that state does not allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with lethal drugs prescribed by a doctor. Maynard became a nationally recognized advocate for the group Compassion & Choices, which seeks to expand aid-in-dying laws beyond a handful of states.

    AP/Nov. 3, 2014
    Ocala Star Banner, Ocala, FL
    Newshawk Crew
  5. Joe-(5-HTP)
    The right to die is certainly ethical.

    The problems with it are that it is abusable. Perhaps unscrupulous family members will encourage elderly relatives to kill themselves in order to get their money.

    Although a valid concern, that says nothing against clear-cut cases like this one.

    The belief that there is just something fundamentally wrong with suicide is just a vestigial morality left over from religion that has its basis in obsolete beliefs in the soul and sanctity of life and so on.
  6. Beenthere2Hippie
    I fully agree with all three of your points. Just like any freedom, the right to die with dignity is one that can be abused easily. But such a relief for people facing such conditions as this young girl was.

    When I first covered this story, I was not sure if she would actually go through with it. Then this morning, sure enough, she was gone.

    Hope things are easier on her family now. That was not an easy decision for any of them to make, let alone her husband and her parents relocating for the death. Obviously, the family had money to even consider such a move, which not all facing such a horrid plight do. I do believe such is the future of all countries to consider, give things 10-20 years and all the baby boomers getting ill and wanting dignified (and less pain-filled) deaths. In fact I think death with dignity will become vogue not too far down the road.

  7. perro-salchicha614
    This story is incredibly sad, especially given the woman's age, but I think it's admirable that she refused to allow society to rob her of agency over her own body and the circumstances of her death. I would like to believe that, when my time comes someday, I will be able to do the same. I have watched one of my grandmothers waste away in a nursing home for years, suffering multiple, progressively more debilitating, strokes until she was left with absolutely no quality of life at all and no control over her bodily functions. There is no dignity in that. I know for a fact that it wasn't the way that she wanted to die. I think that our medical system focuses too much on extending life at all costs without giving any consideration to what is actually most humane for the patient.
  8. kcha95
    If anyone here is interested, I watched an amazing documentary on this subject titled, "How to Die in Oregon". (I believe it is still on Netflix).

    The documentary surrounds several patients and their journey through physician assisted suicide. It also mentions the drugs used, and legality issues.

    I'd highly recommend it. Sorry if this sounds like an ad, that's not my intention.
  9. perro-salchicha614
    Thanks, I'll have to check that out. :)
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