Terminally ill patient Brittany Maynard took her own life with assistance from a physician on Sunday.
According to the Washington Post, Maynard suffered from a rare form of brain cancer. After being diagnosed in January, the 29-year-old was given six months to live. Maynard, who has been married for about a year, was honest about her vow to end her own life if her condition became too much to bear. With Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act in her corner, she became a public advocate for the law and launched a campaign about exercising her right to live and die on her own terms.
Maynard, 29, died Saturday at her home in Portland, Ore., after taking lethal drugs prescribed by her physician. It was a decision she made earlier this year after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given six months to live.
Arthur Caplan, of New York University’s Division of Medical Ethics, wrote that because Maynard was “young, vivacious, attractive … and a very different kind of person” from the average patient seeking physician-assisted suicide, she “changes the optics of the debate.” Her story commanded national attention. Before she died, she launched her own campaign with Compassion & Choices, an advocacy group for the terminally ill. She drew support from lawmakers in Connecticut and New Jersey.
The Death With Dignity Act, also known as the “right-to-die,” was enacted in 1997. The state is one of three who uphold the law, alongside Montana and New Mexico. On average, people over the age of 71 have used the law in Oregon. Maynard is one of six people below the age of 34 to use it.
Before her passing, she wrote about her decision in a blog:
“I made my decisions based on my wishes, clinical research, choices, discussions with physicians, and logic,” she wrote. “I am not depressed or suicidal or on a ‘slippery slope.’ I have been in charge of this choice, gaining control of a terrifying terminal disease through the application of my own humane logic.”
“Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more,” she wrote on Facebook. “The world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers. I even have a ring of support around my bed as I type … Goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!”
In an interview with PEOPLE, Maynard talked about her decision and what the law means for people who are facing a similar fate.
“Really, from the beginning, all the doctors said when you have a glioma you’re going to die,” she told PEOPLE. “You can just Google it. People don’t survive this disease. Not yet.”
Doctors removed as much of the tumor as they could, but it came back larger than ever two months later, she said. After researching her options, she decided not to try chemotherapy or radiation.
“They didn’t seem to make sense for me,” she said, because of “the level of side effects I would suffer and it wouldn’t save my life. I’ve been told pretty much no matter what, I’m going to die – and treatments would extend my life but affect the quality pretty negatively.”
Seven other states have bills pushing for a “right-to-die” law, including New Jersey, Hawaii, New Hampshire, and Kansas.