How do we discuss a woman’s decision to die?

Perhaps it’s happened before, but I can’t recall an instance when we’ve all been asked to share the decision of a young woman to take her own life.

Brittany Maynard, a California native, found out recently that she has terminal brain cancer, so she and her family have moved to Oregon to take advantage of that state’s “Death with Dignity Act.” She’s announced via YouTube that she intends to die two days after her husband’s birthday in November.

In the few weeks she has left to live, KTLA reports, Maynard has decided to advocate on behalf of Compassion & Choices, which backs the expansion of “death with dignity laws.”

“I hope to enjoy however many days I have left on this beautiful Earth … the reason to consider life, and what’s of value, is to make sure you’re not missing out. Seize the day. What’s important to you, what do you care about, what matters. Pursue that. Forget the rest,” she said.

Chicago Now blogger Mary Tyler Mom knows the scenario.

Along with other family and paid caregivers, I provided care for my Mom in the nine months it took for her to die after that surgery. I bathed her and fed her and toileted her and brushed her dentures and washed her sheets and did everything a human body requires when it is paralyzed and no longer works as it was intended. These were loving acts that prepared me for motherhood and my own daughter’s brain tumor just two years later.

Whether or not my Mom would have wanted to exercise a more dignified death than the one she had is not a question I can engage in. That choice would have never been mine to make. And whether or not my daughter would have benefited from a death hastened and softened by medication is not a question I will engage in. That choice is too personal for public consumption.

But having seen two loved ones, my mother and my daughter, die from the effects of aggressive brain tumors, I know first hand what awaits Brittany Maynard. And with that intimate knowledge, I support her right to choose her time and circumstances of death. And let’s be clear, folks: Brittany Maynard is not choosing death. Death chose her. Brittany is exercising her right as a citizen of the state of Oregon to die with dignity. She wants every American to have access to that same right.

  • Mitch

    It’s so hard. How do you know what choice you would make? But that’s the point, isn’t it? To have a choice. A nasty GBM (they are all nasty) killed my sister a little over 7 years ago. She was being treated at UCSF. That’s where Brittany was diagnosed. They are the best, but you can’t beat the damn thing. You can only try to figure out how you want to live with it for however long you have. That’s pretty much all you can control. Good for her. Godspeed, Brittany.

  • Al

    It’s her life; it’s her choice. We should all be so lucky to choose how and when we pass.

    • Kassie

      I agree.

      Except then we all say it is a shame that people commit suicide due to mental illness. And some mental illness is also not curable. And so maybe people are making decisions to not live with the mental pain and anguish in the long run and then maybe we should be ok with a suicide as a choice for mental as well as physical illnesses. Or maybe not. I’m not sure what the answer is here. Just throwing something out there.

      • Jack

        thoughtful message.

  • Julie b

    Brittany is a brave and beautiful woman – I support her 100 0/0. My father died of a GBM in 2011. It was cruel and devastating. God Bless You Brittany ! Spare yourself and your loving family this awful end of a beautiful life.