End-of-Life Choice, Death with Dignity, Palliative Care and Counseling

Death with Dignity

Vatican Wrong to Judge Brittany Maynard for Her End-of-Life Choice, Says Minister

Says Catholic Church Should Not Impose Religious Beliefs on Non-Catholics 

(Portland, OR – Nov. 4, 2014) Compassion & Choices issued the following statement in response to a Vatican official’s condemnation of Brittany Maynard for choosing to die with dignity.

“Brittany Maynard was not Catholic,” said Rev. Dr. Ignacio Castuera, a board member of Compassion & Choices. “People of faith are free to follow their own beliefs and consciences. But it is wrong to use the police power of government to impose a set of religious beliefs on people who do not share them. It is not the American way.”

“Even many Catholics disagree with the Vatican on numerous issues, ranging from birth control – to a woman’s right to choose – to end-of-life choice,” added Rev. Castuera.

For example, Rev. Castuera said the 86-year-old Roman Catholic theologian, Hans Kueng, who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, wrote in his memoirs:

“No person is obligated to suffer the unbearable as something sent from God. People can decide this for themselves and no priest, doctor or judge can stop them.”


Brittany Maynard Dies With Dignity

Death Comes Peacefully After Taking Aid-in-Dying Medication  

(Portland, OR – Nov. 2, 2014) Twenty-nine year-old Brittany Maynard’s public story of bravely enduring brain cancer touched the hearts of millions of Americans. She died peacefully on Saturday, Nov. 1 in her Portland home, surrounded by family and friends.

Brittany suffered increasingly frequent and longer seizures, severe head and neck pain, and stroke-like symptoms. As symptoms grew more severe she chose to abbreviate the dying process by taking the aid-in-dying medication she had received months ago. This choice is authorized under the Oregon Death With Dignity Act. She died as she intended – peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones.

Brittany’s family requests that the media respect their wish to mourn her loss privately. They have released an official obituary, cut and pasted below and available at www.TheBrittanyFund.org. It is also posted below.

“Brittany has died, but her love of life and nature, her passion and spirit endure,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee. “In Brittany’s memory, do what matters most. And tell those you love how much they matter to you. We will work to carry on her legacy of bringing end-of-life choice to all Americans.”

Brittany’s Obituary

“One Day Your Life Will Flash Before Your Eyes, Make Sure it’s Worth Watching”

Brittany Lauren Maynard was born in 1984 and forged a brief but solid 29 years of generosity, compassion, education, travel, and humor. She happily met her husband Daniel Diaz in April of 2007 and they married, as best friends, 5 years later in September of 2012.

This past year, on New Year’s Day, Brittany was diagnosed with brain cancer. She was given a terminal diagnosis for which there was no cure or life saving measures available. In the face of such terminal illness and pain, Brittany chose to live each day fully, traveled, and kept as physically active and busy as she possibly could.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”- Theodore Roosevelt. A formula to live by, sick or well.

After being told by one doctor that “she probably didn’t even have weeks to be on her feet,” she was found climbing 10 mile trails along the ice fields of Alaska with her best friend in the sunshine months later. “Speak your own truth, even when your voice shakes.” she would say.

Brittany graduated from UC Berkeley as an undergrad, and received a Masters in Education from UC Irvine. She believed in compassion, equity, and that people would remember most how you made them feel in life. As Faulkner said, “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If more people all over the world would do this, the world would change.”

She was an accomplished and adventuresome traveler who spent many months living solo and teaching in orphanages in Kathmandu, Nepal. That single experience forever changed her life and perspective on childhood, happiness, privilege and outcomes. She fell in love with her time in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore and Thailand. She spent a summer working in Costa Rica, and traveled to Tanzania, and summited Kilimanjaro with a girlfriend a month before her wedding. She took ice climbing courses on Cayambe and Cotopaxi in Ecuador and was an avid scuba diver, who relished her time in the Galapagos, Zanzibar, Caymans and pretty much any island she ever visited.

She loved her two dogs like family, a small Beagle and large Great Dane, and was always the one to take in lost dogs and find them homes. Brittany was a regular volunteer at a local animal rescue organization before her diagnosis.

Brittany chose to make a well thought out and informed choice to Die With Dignity in the face of such a terrible, painful, and incurable illness. She moved to Oregon to pass away in a little yellow house she picked out in the beautiful city of Portland. Oregon is a place that strives to protect patient rights and autonomy; she wished that her home State of California had also been able to provide terminally ill patients with the same choice. Brittany chose to speak out and advocate for this patient right and option, which she felt is an informed choice that should be made available to all terminally ill patients across our great nation. “The freedom is in the choice,” she believed. “If the option of DWD is unappealing to anyone for any reason, they can simply choose not to avail themselves of it. Those very real protections are already in place.” With great consideration, she gave personal interviews to the UK’s Tonight Show prior to Death with Dignity being addressed by their Parliament, as well as participated in an American based campaign for Death With Dignity education and legislation.

She is survived by her faithful, practical, and kind husband Daniel Diaz, her loving self-less mother Deborah Ziegler and honorable step-father Gary Holmes. And by Dan’s loving supportive family, parents: Carmen and Barry and brothers: David, Adrian, and Alex. All of whom she adored and loved very deeply. While she had longed for children of her own, she left this world with zero regrets on time spent, places been, or people she loved in her 29 years.

In this final message, she wanted to express a note of deep thanks to all her beautiful, smart, wonderful, supportive friends whom she “sought out like water” during her life and illness for insight, support, and the shared experience of a beautiful life.

“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.” – Brittany Maynard

Brittany Maynard Releases New Video in Campaign to Authorize Death With Dignity in California, Nationwide

She Discusses Her Declining Health But Reserves Right Not to Take Life-Ending Medication

(Portland, OR – Oct. 30, 2014) Terminally ill 29-year-old Brittany Maynard has released a new video as part of her joint campaign with Compassion & Choices to expand access to death with dignity in California and other states nationwide. The video is available at http://www.thebrittanyfund.org/.

Brittany has an aggressive, fatal form of brain cancer, diagnosed on New Year’s Day. She and her family took on the incredibly difficult task of moving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Portland, Oregon, to access Oregon’s death-with-dignity law authorizing the medical practice of aid in dying. This medical practice offers terminally ill, mentally competent adults the option to request a prescription for medication they can take to end their dying process if it becomes unbearable.

Nearly nine million have watched her first video since it was posted on YouTube Oct. 6. And 3.5 million people have visited the campaign website to help expand access to death with dignity in Brittany’s name at www.thebrittanyfund.org.

“Brittany is a teacher by training, and now she is teaching the world that everyone deserves the opportunity to die with dignity. She is changing hearts and minds on an unprecedented scale on this basic human-rights issue,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, who recently met with Brittany and her family. An attorney, who was an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years, Coombs Lee coauthored the law Brittany is accessing.

On New Year’s Day, after months of suffering through severe headaches, Brittany learned she had brain cancer. Three months later, after undergoing surgery, she found her brain tumor had grown massively. That is when physicians told her she would likely die within months. Brittany has had her life-ending medication since shortly after that. She tentatively planned to take the medication in early November, but she has made it clear that timing depends entirely on how rapidly her cancer progresses and the severity of her symptoms.

“If November 2 comes along and I’ve passed, I hope my family is still proud of me and the choices I made,” says Brittany in the new video at www.thebrittanyfund.org. “And if November 2 comes along and I’m still alive, I know that we’ll just still be moving forward as a family out of love for each other and that that decision will come later.

“It sounds so cliché: “We take things one day at a time,” but it’s like, that’s the only way to get through this,” says Brittany’s husband, Dan Diaz, in the video. “You take away all of the material stuff, all the nonsense that we all seem to latch onto as a society, and you realize that those moments are really what matter.”

“The worst thing that could happen to me is that I wait too long … My most terrifying set of seizures was about a week or so ago,” Brittany says in the video, which was recorded Oct. 13-14. “I remember looking at my husband’s face at one point and thinking, ‘I know this is my husband, but I can’t say his name,’ and ended up going to the hospital.”

“It’s not my job to tell her how to live, and it’s not my job to tell her how to die,” says Brittany’s mom, Debbie Ziegler, in the video. “It’s my job to love her through it.”

“Well if all my dreams came true I would somehow survive this, but I mostly likely won’t,” Brittany says in the video. “So beyond that, having been an only child for my mother, I want her to recover from this and not break down, you know, not suffer from any kind of depression. My husband is such a lovely man, I want him to – you know I understand everyone needs to grieve ­– but I want him to be happy, so I want him to have a family.”

“My goal of course is to influence this policy for positive change, and I would like to see all Americans have access to the same healthcare rights,” Brittany concludes in the video. “But beyond that public policy goal, my goals really are quite simple, and they mostly do boil down to my family and friends, and making sure they all know how important they are to me and how much I love them.”

In addition to Oregon, aid in dying is authorized in Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico. Compassion & Choices has campaigns to authorize this medical practice in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Brittany Maynard Urges Palliative Care Specialist to Stop Misrepresenting Her Case

Says She Chose Death-with-Dignity Option After Thorough Research, Then Contacted Compassion & Choices 

(Portland, OR – Oct. 23, 2014) Brittany Maynard urged a palliative care specialist, Dr. Ira Byock, whom she never has met, to stop misrepresenting her case prior to his debate with Compassion & Choices Pres. Barbara Coombs Lee on today’s Diane Rehm Show.

In comments Brittany posted on the website for Rehm’s nationally-syndicated NPR show, she denied claims by Byock and other opponents of death with dignity that Compassion & Choices is using her to advance the aid-in-dying movement. Rehm read part of Brittany’s comments during her show’s 11am-12pm ET segment. Here is link to the segment’s audio: http://bit.ly/DRshowaudio. Here is the link to all of Brittany’s comments: http://bit.ly/DRshowBrittMaynard. They also are cut and pasted below.

“I am Brittany Maynard and it concerns me that Dr. Ira Byock will speak on my ‘behalf’ at all again. I watched a special on PBS where this same individual spoke about my case as though he knew personal details about me, saying some things that were quite frankly not true.


CBS 60 Minutes to Highlight Risk for Americans Living in 45 States Where Death with Dignity Is Not Authorized

Compassion & Choices Helped Exonerate PA Woman Unjustly Charged with Felony for Handing Pain Medication to Her Dying Father


60 Minutes has announced it will air an interview with Compassion & Choices Pres. Barbara Coombs Lee this Sunday about the risk for dying patients and family caregivers who live in the 45 states that don’t authorize death with dignity for terminally ill, mentally competent adults. The story will detail the unjust felony prosecution of Philadelphia nurse Barbara Mancini for handing her dying, 93-year-old father, Joe Yourshaw, his prescription morphine at his request. He drank the partially-filled one ounce bottle of morphine and became drowsy. Despite Barbara Mancini’s pleas on behalf of her father as his healthcare proxy, the hospice provider ignored his do not resuscitate order (DNR), called 911 and the police arrested her. Joe Yourshaw was revived against his wishes at a local Pottsville hospital, where he died in agony after four days of futile, unwanted medical treatment. Compassion & Choices generated national news coverage criticizing this outrageous case, filed an amicus brief in Mancini’s defense and donated $20,000 from its Action Network Legal Defense Fund to help offset her legal fees of over $100,000. A year later, a judge dismissed the assisted suicide charge against Barbara Mancini, which could have resulted in a 10-year prison sentence.


Death with dignity, also known as the medical practice of aid in dying, is authorized in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico. Barbara Mancini’s case and the worldwide news coverage of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard having to uproot her family from California to Oregon to access its death-with-dignity law are galvanizing Compassion & Choices’ campaigns to authorize aid in dying in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey.


Barbara Mancini, Nurse/Compassion & Choices Volunteer Advocate

Barbara Coombs Lee, Compassion & Choices President


CBS TV Network (see advance story clip at: http://bit.ly/60MinsBarbaraMancini)


Sun., Oct. 19, 7pm ET or immediately after end of 4:05pm or 4:25pm ET NFL game


Photos and video of Barbara Mancini and her family are available upon request


Sean Crowley, 202.495.8520-c, [email protected]