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Brittany Maynard, advocate for ‘death with dignity,’ dies at 29

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Posted at 6:17 AM, Nov 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-03 06:20:37-05

(CNN) — Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old who said she had terminal brain cancer, took medication to end her life under Oregon’s “Death with Dignity Act,” advocacy group Compassion & Choices said Sunday.

“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,” a post on her website said. “She moved to Oregon to pass away in a little yellow house she picked out in the beautiful city of Portland.”

Obituary: Brittany Lauren Maynard

In a statement, Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life choice advocacy group that has been working closely with Maynard, said she “died as she intended — peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones.”

Maynard passed away Saturday, said the group, which released an official obituary.

The epitaph contained a final message from Maynard, who expressed a note of deep thanks to all of her supporters, whom she “sought out like water” during her life and illness.

“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,” she said.

Maynard graduated from University of California, Berkeley, and earned a Masters in Education from University of California, Irvine, according to the obituary. She was a world traveler who volunteered at a local animal rescue organization before her diagnosis and lived 29 years of “generosity, compassion, education, travel, and humor,” it said.

Maynard is survived by her husband and his family, her mother and stepfather.

“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,” the obituary said.

Maynard’s story spread rapidly on social media as a video explaining her choice garnered more than 9 million views on YouTube.

She became a prominent spokeswoman for the “death with dignity” movement, which advocates that terminally ill patients be allowed to receive medication that will let them die on their own terms. She also became a lightning rod for criticism from people who oppose that approach.

“I quickly decided that death with dignity was the best option for me and my family,” Maynard wrote in an opinion column for CNN explaining her choice. “We had to uproot from California to Oregon, because Oregon is one of only five states where death with dignity is authorized.”

In a video released last week, Maynard said she hadn’t yet decided when she would end her life.

“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. But it will come, because I feel myself getting sicker. It’s happening each week,” Maynard said in the video, which was produced by Compassion & Choices and released to CNN last Wednesday.

Maynard said she had stage IV glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of terminal brain cancer.

When she first started speaking out about her decision, Maynard said that in early November she planned to take the medication she’d been prescribed. In her latest video, she said she was waiting to see how her symptoms progress before deciding on a date.

But taking too long to make that choice was one of her greatest fears, Maynard said.

“The worst thing that could happen to me is that I wait too long because I’m trying to seize each day,” she says, “but I somehow have my autonomy taken away from me by my disease, because of the nature of my cancer.”

Here is the official statement released on her death:

Brittany Maynard Dies With Dignity From Brain Cancer

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.

“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.”

Compassion & Choices is the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life. Leading the end-of-life choice movement for more than 30 years, we support, educate and advocate. More information is available at: www.compassionandchoices.org.