Brittany Maynard, Terminally Ill Death With Dignity Advocate, Dies at 29

A terminally ill 29-year-old newlywed who had become a powerful voice for the Death with Dignity Act, Brittany Maynard died on Saturday at her home in Portland, Oregon, People reports.

Maynard, who was told she had just six months to live after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in April, fought bravely for terminally ill patients to have the right to die on their own terms, and spoke publicly about her choice to end her own life by taking lethal pills prescribed by doctors under the Death with Dignity Act. Prior to her death, People reports Maynard wrote a message for friends and family on Facebook:

"Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more .The world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers. I even have a ring of support around my bed as I type … Goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!"

After learning she had stage four glioblastoma last spring, Maynard launched an online video campaign for Compassion & Choices, a non-profit organization that supports death-with-dignity laws, and set up the Brittany Maynard Fund, which raises money for the organization. Maynard, who believed terminally ill patients should have the right to die on their own terms, had been pushing for legislation that would legalize physician-assisted death in all states. Currently, only Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and New Mexico allow terminally ill patients to receive life-ending medication.

In June, Maynard's family moved from San Francisco to Oregon so that Brittany could die under the Death With Dignity Act.

In a heartbreaking interview with People prior to her death, Maynard explained her decision to end her life rather than wait for her condition to get worse. “There is not a cell in my body that is suicidal or that wants to die," she said. "I want to live. I wish there was a cure for my disease but there’s not.”

Maynard originally chose November 1 to end her life, but released a video last week with the help of Compassion & Choices in which she explained that date may change.

“When people criticize me for not waiting longer, or whatever they’ve decided is best for me, it hurts. Because really, I risk it every day that I wake up. And I do it because I still feel good enough, and I still have enough joy, and I still laugh and smile with my family and friends enough that it doesn’t seem like the right time right now.”

According to People, Maynard spent her final months with her family traveling, visiting Yellowstone National Park, and taking a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon, a place she wanted to see before she died.

She told People she hoped her husband and mother would continue her work to get the Death with Dignity Act passed in every state.

An obituary posted on her website quotes a final message from Brittany to her loved ones: "It is people who pause to appreciate life and give thanks who are happiest. If we change our thoughts, we change our world! Love and peace to you all."

CompassionChoices on YouTube

Image: CompassionChoices/YouTube