RIP Brittany Maynard

[Content Note: Illness; assisted death.]

Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer who used the last weeks of her life to advocate for expanding US access to doctor-assisted death, died over the weekend, as planned, in accordance with Oregon's Death with Dignity law.

In her final Facebook post, she wrote: "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."

My condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues.

One of the interesting things I've noticed in the coverage of Maynard's death is the routine use of language that Maynard killed herself. Which is, of course, technically true. But it's more complicated than that, too. An aggressive form of brain cancer is the cause of Maynard's death. The pills she took to die on her own terms merely decided the day that death would happen.

That may seem like an irrelevant bit of semantics, but it's not. Assisted death for terminally ill people is not about deciding to end their own lives, but about knowing their lives are ending and taking control over when and how that will happen.

That's not a choice everyone wants to make, but it should be a choice all of us have the option to make.

I have abundant admiration for Brittany Maynard, who used her life to do such poignant and important advocacy around death.

[Related Reading, including discussion of concerns around consent: Right to Die.]

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