Part 2 of a 3-Part Series.
“Right now, it’s a choice that’s only available to some Americans, which is really unethical.”
– Brittany Maynard, speaking to People Magazine about medical aid in dying in 2014
In June of 2014, a 29-year-old California woman named Brittany Maynard who was suffering from a fatal brain tumor had relocated to Oregon with her husband. She intended to make use of medical aid in dying (MAID) under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Law and end her life when her suffering became too great.
That same month – on June 23, 2014 – the husband of Diane Rehm, host of National Public Radio’s The Diane Rehm Show, had died. Afflicted with Parkinson’s disease and having been given a six-months-or-less prognosis, John Rehm’s body was failing rapidly, and he had asked his physician to help him die. As Mr. Rehm was then in the state of Maryland where MAID was not permitted, the doctor couldn’t agree to the request, leaving John with only one option: VSED, or voluntarily stopping eating and drinking. After ten days of this regimen, Mr. Rehm passed away. John and Diane Rehm had been married for 54 years.
Brittany Maynard, however, did have the option that John Rehm did not. Like Mr. Rehm, she had a terminal diagnosis of less than six months and she was living in a state where medical aid in dying was not permitted. The difference was that Brittany was healthy enough to relocate. She established residency in Portland, Oregon, where the option was available. There she was cared for by a doctor who prescribed the barbiturates she would eventually take to bring about her own death. But in the meantime, with her husband Dan Diaz, she made every minute count. She traveled to Alaska, flew in a helicopter above the Grand Canyon, and checked off numerous other goals on her long bucket list. A cover story about her in People magazine was only one among a multitude of media reports on her final weeks and days.
I, like millions of other Americans, followed Brittany’s dramatic story, and was inspired by her joie de vivre as well as her determination to live her remaining time her way. Medical aid in dying was entering the national consciousness.
See Part 3 of this 3-part series.