About Brittany Maynard
In the spring of 2014, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard learned that she had terminal brain cancer. After careful assessment of her prognosis and end-of-life options, she and her family reluctantly decided to move from their San Francisco Bay Area home to Oregon, one of five states (including Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico) that authorized death with dignity at the time. Aid in dying was legalized in California in October 2015.
Brittany recognized it is unfair that the vast majority of people cannot access death with dignity because they do not have the resources and time to uproot their family, seek appropriate medical care and establish a support system in a different state.
After getting settled in Oregon, Brittany approached Compassion & Choices, the nation’s leading end-of-life choice advocacy organization, and asked how she could help advocate for more options for terminally ill Americans.
Brittany agreed to be interviewed on film regarding death with dignity because of her strong belief in the ethics of this basic healthcare and human right. Her first video, posted to TheBrittanyFund.org on October 6, 2014, was viewed more than 9 million times in its first month.
Every member of the Compassion & Choices team was humbled by Brittany’s courage and generosity, and continues striving to honor her gift to the end-of-life choice movement. Brittany Maynard’s voice and her story did more than she could have known to advance end-of-life options and aid in dying across the country. It is a legacy to be proud of.
About Compassion & Choices
As the oldest and largest organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life, Compassion & Choices operates many programs and services.
Compassion & Choices advocates to make aid in dying an open, accessible medical practice in states across the country. Every American should have the sense of peace that Brittany sought — without having to uproot their life and leave their home. The Brittany Maynard Fund, an initiative of Compassion & Choices, will be used to advance this effort.
Compassion & Choices uses legal strategies, ballot measures and legislative efforts to make aid in dying accessible in states across the nation. Campaigns are underway in many states pushing for improved end-of-life care and to make aid in dying an authorized, regulated medical practice. Where aid in dying is already authorized, Compassion & Choices runs ongoing education campaigns for the public and healthcare providers to expand access.
Compassion & Choices’ End of Life Consultation (EOLC) program provides free, confidential support anywhere in the country with trained experts who help people improve the quality of life they have left, achieve a peaceful death or plan ahead.
The Compassion & Choices website contains various resources to help families and individuals make their end-of-life plans and make their wishes known so they can avoid unnecessary suffering in their final days.
Compassion & Choices is also active in the policy arena and participates in the federal Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment (End UMT). The campaign is a coalition of organizations committed to helping healthcare consumers get the best treatment and only the treatment they want — no more and no less.
What is Aid in Dying?
Aid in dying is an option every person deserves to reduce suffering at the end of life and die in comfort and control, with dignity. It has been ruled a constitutionally protected right in state and federal courts. Also known as aid in dying, it is a medical practice in which a terminally ill and mentally competent adult requests, and a doctor prescribes, a life-ending medication the person self-administers when and if they choose. Recent national polling puts public support for aid in dying at 70 percent.
Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, which Brittany Maynard accessed, was the first in the nation. Its 17-year history shows that death-with-dignity laws are safe and work as designed. It has been thoroughly documented by the state health department, investigated by medical researchers and monitored by the news media. None of the concerns raised by opponents about coercion or abuse have ever materialized.
Aid in dying is voluntary. An eligible person can request the prescription, but no doctor is obligated to provide it. Once a prescription is written, the patient chooses when and whether to fill it — or take it. Many people never take it. Simply having the choice provides people a sense of peace in the face of uncertainty and fear that their suffering might be unbearable. It allows people the freedom to die in control, with dignity.