PORTLAND, Ore. — Brittany Maynard’s last days started a national conversation about whether it’s OK for terminally ill people to end their lives.
Advocates for expanding right-to-die laws beyond a handful of states expect attention from the young woman’s story to carry into the new year, when state legislatures go into session.
“Up and down New England, the East Coast, and then in the West, too,” said Peg Sandeen, executive director of the Death with Dignity National Center. “I think on both coasts we’re going to see legislative action.”
That optimism will be met with the political reality that such legislation has been pushed for years, often unsuccessfully.
“Suicide is never a good solution, regardless of the situation that one is confronting,” said Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, a Catholic group.
Maynard, terminally ill with brain cancer, was in the national spotlight for about a month after publicizing that she and her husband, Dan Diaz, moved to Portland from Northern California so that she could use the Oregon law to end her life on her own terms. Maynard told journalists she planned to die Nov. 1. She followed through on Saturday. She was 29.
She approached the advocacy group Compassion & Choices during the summer in hopes that telling her story would lead to political action in California and across the nation. Whether that happens is an open question. Maynard, however, succeeded in raising awareness about an issue that was trending on Facebook and Twitter after her death.
Vermont last year became the first state to legalize aid in dying through legislation. Oregon and Washington did so by referendum. In Montana and New Mexico, it was legalized through court decisions.
In New Jersey, the state Assembly considered but failed to pass an aid-in-dying bill in June.