PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — To mark what would have been the 30th birthday of Brittany Maynard, a right-to-die advocacy group has issued three weeks after her death new video footage of the terminally ill woman.
In the video, recorded in August by the group Compassion & Choices and released on Wednesday, Maynard calls on more states to enact legislation allowing terminally ill people to end life on their own terms.
Maynard, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given six months to live this spring, grabbed the national spotlight for about a month after publicizing that she and her husband moved to Portland from California so she could use Oregon’s law to end her life with dignity.
Maynard ended her life on Nov. 1.
The new video includes photographs of Maynard before her illness. It also features the voices of other terminally ill patients and their family members.
Oregon was the first state to allow terminally ill patients to die using lethal medications prescribed by a doctor.
Four other U.S. states also allow patients to seek aid in dying: Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico. Vermont legalized it last year through legislation. Oregon and Washington did so by referendum, and it was effectively legalized through court decisions in Montana and New Mexico — though New Mexico’s attorney general is now appealing the ruling in his state.
Compassion & Choices says legislators in about a dozen states plan to introduce right-to-die laws next year, including in Wyoming and Colorado.
But the political reality is that such legislation has been pushed for years, often unsuccessfully.
The New Jersey Assembly passed a bill last week that would allow physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients, with some legislators citing Maynard’s story as a deciding factor in their vote. But Republican Gov. Chris Christie has said he opposes the measure.
In California, the West Hollywood City Council this week passed a resolution that urges the Los Angeles County District Attorney to not prosecute physicians and family members who offer aid in dying to the terminally ill. But the state has no current bills or ballot measures on the issue.
In Pennsylvania, where a death-with-dignity bill was introduced in October, its sponsor Rep. Mark Rozzi admits the bill’s passage will be an uphill battle. Rozzi, a Democrat, said it has been difficult getting bills out of the judiciary committee when they are opposed by the state’s Catholic leadership.
Some religious groups and social conservatives, including a Vatican official and the American Life League, have heavily criticized Maynard’s decision.
Rozzi, whose 63-year-old father died of the same type of brain cancer as Maynard, said the young woman’s campaign and his family’s situation made it apparent why such bills are needed in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
“I had to watch my father die of cancer… It was the most gut-wrenching experience our family and he had to endure,” Rozzi said. “He would always tell me this is not the way he wanted to live.”
Compassion & Choice said its website has had more than 5 million unique visitors during the past month, while Maynard’s two previous videos have been viewed more than 13 million times on YouTube alone.
“I sense immense momentum right now,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices. “Brittany Maynard is a new voice for a new generation of activists … she devoted her precious energy to help ensure other dying Americans would have a choice.”
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