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Dying With Dignity: Brittany Maynard’s Story
Posted on November 13, 2014 by Christina Jemison
Brittany Maynard started making headlines in October 2014, and she has generated a lot of conversation on both sides of the issue of dying with dignity. Since I learned of it it, it’s fascinated me. Maybe it’s because she is around the same age as I, or maybe it’s because I am a nurse.
Even a month into educating myself on Brittany’s story and the dying/death with dignity laws in our country, I have yet to formulate a clear personal opinion on the matter. It’s a difficult, deeply emotional and personal subject, and one that is highly controversial. It’s not unlike other polarized issues that face us in the end stages of life, such as Hospice or Palliative care, do not resuscitate orders, or even cremation. There are always two sides to every coin.
Brittany was a twenty-nine year old woman who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in the beginning of 2014. She had been suffering from severe headaches, and was finally diagnosed with a Stage IV Glioblastoma. She had brain surgery, but unfortunately a short time later the cancer came back with a vengeance. She was given months to live.
Brittany was a newlywed, living and working in San Francisco. Sometime after her diagnosis, she moved her family to Portland in order to have her choice protected under Oregon’s “Death with Dignity” law. Currently, only three states (Oregon, Vermont and Washington) allow competent adults to legally pursue medically-assisted deaths. In Oregon, there are strict eligibility requirements for the consenting adults and physician involved.
Brittany researched her disease, saw the bottom line, and wanted to take her death into her own hands. She set a date, November 1, 2014, and proceeded with her plan.
Even after following her plans discussed through videos on social media, I was shocked to hear on the morning of November 2nd that she had actually gone through with her plan. I guess I give this young woman a lot of courage to bring this subject matter to the forefront of our media right up until her last day, and for sticking to her personal plan. I am not sure I could have done the same.
It’s hard to even think about putting myself in her shoes, and I hope I would never have to. I’d like to think I would want to fight until my last breathe, but then again I am not Brittany, and right now I’m not faced with what she was. But her struggle has helped the country see that this is a choice that some citizens want for themselves.
Brittany Maynard started the nationwide conversation, and now she turned it over to everyone else. No matter what side of the debate you’re on, this is real and it’s relevant, and it requires that we all keep the conversation going.
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