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

Death with Dignity

Annapolis woman joins push for `death with dignity’ law

Maryland death-with-dignity advocate Catherine Weber, explains how she became involved in the end-of-life choice movement and why enacting legislation in her home state is so important to her. This in-depth conversation published in the Capital Gazette explains:

Everyone dies. But the 70-year-old Annapolis woman has metastatic breast cancer and her doctors told her the average life span for someone with her diagnosis is about 21/2 years.

That was in 2010, and Weber has beaten the odds in making it this far. The cancer is stable, but she knows it is a waiting game until the treatments stop working and her body gives out. Read more…

Brittany Maynard’s Mother Responds to Vatican, Other Critics of Her Daughter’s End-of-Life Choice

I am Brittany Maynard’s mother. I am writing in response to a variety of comments made in the press and online by individuals and institutions that have tried to impose their personal belief system on what Brittany and our family feel is a human rights issue.

The imposition of “belief” on a human rights issue is wrong. To censure a personal choice as reprehensible because it does not comply with someone else’s belief is immoral. My twenty-nine-year-old daughter’s choice to die gently rather than suffer physical and mental degradation and intense pain does not deserve to be labelled as reprehensible by strangers a continent away who do not know her or the particulars of her situation.

Reprehensible is a harsh word. It means: “very bad; deserving very strong criticism.” Reprehensible is a word I’ve used as a teacher to describe the actions of Hitler, other political tyrants and the exploitation of children by pedophiles.  As Brittany Maynard’s mother, I find it difficult to believe that anyone who knew her would ever select this word to describe her actions. Brittany was a giver. She was a volunteer. She was a teacher. She was an advocate. She worked at making the world a better place to live.

This word was used publicly at a time when my family was tender and freshly wounded. Grieving. Such strong public criticism from people we do not know, have never met – is more than a slap in the face. It is like kicking us as we struggle to draw a breath.

People and institutions that feel they have the right to judge Brittany’s choices may wound me and cause me unspeakable pain but they do not deter me from supporting my daughter’s choice. There is currently a great deal ofconfusion and arrogance standing in the way of Americans going gently into the good night. I urge Americans to think for themselves. Make your wishes clear while you are competent. Make sure that you have all the options spelled out for you if you are diagnosed with an incurable, debilitating, painful disease. Do your own research. Ask your family to research and face the harsh reality with you. Ask your doctor to be brutally honest with you. Then make your personal choice about how you will proceed. It is YOUR choice.

The “culture of cure” has led to a fairy tale belief that doctors can always fix our problems. We have lost sight of reality. All life ends. Death is not necessarily the enemy in all cases. Sometimes a gentle passing is a gift. Misguided doctors caught up in an aspirational belief that they must extend life, whatever the cost, cause individuals and families unnecessary suffering. Brittany stood up to bullies. She never thought anyone else had the right to tell her how long she should suffer. The right to die for the terminally ill is a human rights issue. Plain and simple.

Debbie Ziegler

Brittany’s Momma

Death with Dignity Option Wins in Watershed Assembly Vote

Aid in Dying Law Now More Likely for People of New Jersey

November 13, 2014 (Trenton, NJ) – In a move that brings the people of New Jersey one step closer to having the medical option of aid in dying, the New Jersey State Assembly voted 41-31 in a bipartisan fashion to pass the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act (A2270).

“Today’s vote reflects our first victory in the memory and spirit of Brittany Maynard,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion & Choices, which advocated for the bill. “Brittany called on our nation to reform laws so others won’t have to move to a Dignity state for comfort and control in their dying. We’re honored to carry on in her name.”

The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act would allow a mentally competent, terminally ill adult the choice to request a prescription for life-ending medication that the patient could take – if and when they choose – in order to reduce suffering at life’s end.

The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act was re-introduced in February 2014 by Assembly Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli, whose own sister-in-law, Claudia Burzichelli, succumbed to lung cancer in 2013.   Prior to her death, she testified about her expected suffering, “…I would hope I might have more options than starving myself or taking my life in a violent way. I don’t know how I will truly feel if and when that time may come. But it comforts me there could be another way, other options. More

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