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Brittany Maynard's Terminal Cancer Diagnosis Led Her To Seek Aid In Dying

Physician-assisted suicide is legal in five states

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In January of this year, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.


Maynard was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer. She moved to Oregon, the first state to allow physician-assisted suicide, from San Francisco after being told she had six-months to live.

I can't even tell you the amount of relief that it provides me to know that I don't have to die the way that it's been described to me that my brain tumor would take me... I plan to be surrounded by my immediate family... and I will die in my bedroom that I share with my husband and pass peacefully with some music I like in the background

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This woman wrote of the death of her brother by glioblastoma

"Kim rapidly lost his ability to walk, talk, feed himself, or use the bathroom. He lost all dignity at this point. He had to be fed, wear diapers, and was bed-ridden. He survived like this for about six months."

Death with Dignity Act in Oregon

As of January 22, 2014, there were 122 prescriptions for lethal medications issued with 71 known DWDA deaths in 2013. Since the law passed in 1997, 1, 173 people got DWDA prescriptions and 752 have died.

According to a Gallup poll, more people are inclined to support the cause if the word "suicide" is not used.


"Americans generally favor allowing doctors to assist terminally ill patients in ending their lives, but the degree of support ranges from 51% to 70%, depending on how the process is described."

Physician-assisted suicide v. euthanasia

Physician-assisted suicide means a doctor prescribes medications that the patient then takes on their own. Euthanasia, where the doctor administers the lethal medication, is illegal.

How physician-assisted suicide works

The patient is prescribed a lethal dose of two kinds of barbiturates: secobarbital and pentobarbital. Doctors recommend patients take the meds on an empty stomach to increase absorption. The length of time it takes for the patient to die ranges from two minutes to 4.5 days.

Oregon, Vermont, Montana, New Mexico, and Washington allow physician-assisted suicide

Oregon's Death with Dignity Act was enacted in 1997.

Washington's Death with Dignity Act went into effect in 2009.

Vermont's Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act became law in 2013.

In 2009 the Montana Supreme Court ruled that terminally ill residents have the right to seek aid in dying.

In 2014, New Mexico became the fifth state to allow physician-assisted suicide.

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