The Short but Meaningful Life of Brittany Maynard, the Terminally Ill Newlywed Choosing to End Her Life
By John Boone
Brittany Maynard, 29, is an amazing woman. She is a Berkley grad, a former teacher, an explorer, an extreme adventurer, and a dedicated volunteer. She’s lived quite a life. Now, she wants her death to be fitting of it.
On November 1, Brittany plans to take a lethal dose of sedatives and pass into an endless sleep in her own bedroom, surrounded by her husband, Dan Diaz, 43, her mom, Debbie Ziegler, her stepfather and her best friend.
“I’m choosing to suffer less,” she told PEOPLE magazine in this week’s cover story. “To put myself and my family through less pain.”
Brittany and Dan married in September of 2012, and started trying for a baby. In 2013, Brittany started experiencing excruciating headaches that doctors diagnosed as “migraines.” Earlier this year, she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, with three to five years to live.
At first, she wanted to fight the cancer: “We were searching for a miracle and willing to travel out of the country,” Brittany explained. “But there was nothing.” Her tumor was removed, but it grew back and her life expectancy was shortened to six months and the quality of her day-to-day was worsening.
“There are days she is nauseous. There are days she has seizures,” Dan told PEOPLE. “When they come on, she loses her ability to talk, and for 10 minutes after, she is talking gibberish. How much does one person tolerate?”
Which is why Brittany and her family moved to Portland, Ore., the first state to pass a right-to-die law. And where it is legal for Brittany to decide when, where, and how she wants to die. Her family, who initially, and understandably, had trouble accepting her decision, have come around and now support her.
“I know I’m going to be heartbroken. But to dwell on that today means I’d ruin today,” Dan confessed. "I just want to be with Brittany and enjoy our time now.”
Brittany herself says, “I don’t want to die, but I am dying. My [cancer] is going to kill me, and it’s a terrible, terribly way to die. So to be able to die with my family around me, to have control of my own mind, which I would stand to lose — to go with dignity is less terrifying. When I look into both options I have to die, I feel this is far more humane.”
And though her plans are set, she is willing to change them: If Nov. 1 is a good day, she will wait. But she picked that date because it’s between her husband’s birthday, Oct. 26, and her own, Nov. 19. “The idea of celebrating my 30th birthday after getting this diagnosis would be difficult.”
Though her story is controversial, and many don’t understand the choice she’s making, Brittany is content. “I feel very fortunate to go surrounded by love,” she concluded. “I’m proud of the life I’ve lived.”