I was in the waiting room of my dentist’s office, and I happened to see an issue of People Magazine (October 2014). The cover story was titled: “A Terminal Cancer Patient’s Controversial Choice – My Decision to Die.”
On the cover was a picture of a healthy looking young woman. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. The woman at the forefront of this controversial decision is 29-year-old Brittany Maynard. She was diagnosed with a very aggressive malignant brain tumor; her doctors gave her six months to live. After hearing the grim prognosis, Brittany and her family went into overdrive looking for something, anything that could possibly change her situation or help her in some way.
While Brittany was searching for treatments, she discovered articles on death with dignity. Currently, there are five states in the U.S. that have passed “right-to-die” laws. These laws allow people who have a terminal illness to participate actively in their death with prescribed medication from a physician. Brittany believed that it was important for her to have (some) control over her death. She did not want to go through the horrific process of losing her mental and bodily functions, which was imminent. She also wanted to protect her family from what she knew would be an intense continual decline.
After making this big decision she and her family moved to Oregon (a right-to-die state) from California. On November 1, 2014, in the comfort of her home, Brittany died with her family and friends by her side…just the way she wanted.
What thoughts come to mind?
Is this something you have ever thought about…why or why not?
This is a sensitive end-of-life topic and I look forward to hearing your thoughts, however you feel about this issue.
Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.
The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.