The Ways We Approach Death

On Thursday, the California state Senate passed a measure that would give terminally ill patients the legal right to end their lives with a doctor’s assistance. The measure now heads to the Assembly.

Only three U.S. states—Oregon, Vermont and Washington—have laws that allow doctors to give mentally competent, terminally ill adults a prescription medication that ca36-The-Way-We-View-Death-600x200-WEBn hasten their death. California is one of about two dozen states where lawmakers are considering similar legislation.

In many ways, this legislative activity is a direct result of the advocacy efforts of Brittany Maynard. After Maynard received a devastating cancer diagnosis, she and her family worked closely with the Colorado-based organization Compassion & Choices to publicize her decision to end her own life, on her own terms. This effort included the release of a six-minute video in which Maynard explained why she had moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of that state’s Death With Dignity Act. That video, along with a guest column for CNN and a People magazine cover story, captured the nation’s attention.

My article, “The Ways We Approach Death” in the Spring 2015 issue of Cancer Today uses the stories of Maynard and MTV star Danielle Michelle “Diem” Brown, another hard-charging young woman facing cancer, to explore the difficult decisions we all will face at the end of life. You can read the entire article here.