Brittany Maynard -- the young woman with terminal brain cancer who became an advocate for the terminally ill and took her own life under Oregon's aid-in-dying law -- has been gone since November. But on Wednesday, the 29-year-old made a posthumous appearance in a video at a California senate committee hearing, in which she urged support for the passage of the state's End-of-Life Option Act. Maynard wrote and taped her statement only weeks before her death.
"As elected officials, you have the power to make this happen," Maynard said in the video testimony, which was introduced by her husband at the hearing. "Please take action. Every terminally ill American deserves the choice to die with dignity. Let the movement begin here, now. Access to this choice lies in your hands. Freedom from prolonged pain and suffering is a most basic human right. Please make death with dignity an American health care choice."
Throughout her illness, Maynard posted a series of videos to educate the public on her decision to go through with her choice to end her life on her "own terms," as she put it. With the help of the nonprofit advocacy organization Compassion & Choices, Maynard's public struggle helped raise awareness for the issue. Since her death more than 15 states have introduced aid-in-dying bills.
Currently only Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana and New Mexico permit doctors to write prescriptions for drugs to help terminally ill patients who want to end their life.
After being diagnosed with brain cancer on New Year's Day in 2014, and later learning it was incurable, Maynard moved from her home in California to Portland, Oregon, where she could legally obtain a lethal dose of drugs when she was ready.
"How dare the government make decisions or limit options for terminally ill people like me," Maynard said in the video, which was recorded by Compassion & Choices. "Unfortunately, California law prevented me from getting the end of life option I deserved. No one should have to leave their home and community for peace of mind, to escape suffering, and to plan for a gentle death."
In January, a little more than two months after her death, California lawmakers announced plans to pursue right-to-die legislation.
However, the proposal is expected to face strong opposition from some medical and religious leaders who have spoken out against doctors playing any role in hastening patients' deaths.
Not all terminally ill patients share Maynard's views, either.
One of the most prominent opponents of such legislation has been another cancer patient, Kara Tippetts, a Colorado mother of four with metastatic breast cancer, who wrote an open letter to Maynard in October urging her to change her mind. Tippetts' blog post was entitled "Dear Brittany: Why We Don't Have To Be So Afraid of Dying & Suffering That We Choose Suicide."
Tippetts invoked her belief in God and wrote, "It was never intended for us to decide when that last breath is breathed." She also argued against such laws on the grounds of medical ethics: "The doctor that prescribed you that pill you carry with you that will hasten your last breath has walked away from the hippocratic oath that says, 'first, do no harm.'"
Tippetts died of cancer on Sunday at the age of 38.
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