Friday, October 10, 2014

What will happen to Brittany Maynard?

By Margaret Dore, Esq., MBA

The suicide advocacy group, Compassion & Choices, is running a public relations campaign featuring the story of Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old woman with a brain tumor.  According to media reports, she intends to take her life under Oregon's assisted suicide law in the near future.[1]

Lovelle Svart

In 2007, there was a similar case in Oregon involving Lovelle Svart, which was also promoted by Compassion & Choices.  Svart, who had cancer, died at the end of a party in which she had been having a great time.  The party was reported in the Seattle Times, which described her as being in control.[2]  When it was time for her to die, however, she engaged in stalling behaviors ("a hugging line" and a cigarette break).  There was also this exchange between her and George Eighmey, a member of Compassion & Choices:
“Is this what you want?”
 “Actually, I’d like to go on partying,” Lovelle replied, laughing before turning serious. "But yes." 
The situation was similar to a wedding when it’s time to take your vows.  Everyone is watching and it's the thing to do.  Even if you're having second thoughts or would rather “go on partying,” you go forward.  If Eighmey had wanted to give her an out, he could have said:
“You're having so much fun, you don’t have to do this today or even next week.”
Instead, he closed her by guiding her to take the lethal dose, which killed her.

Will Ms. Maynard get her choice?

It may be hard to know.

Compassion & Choices, regardless, will have an interest in getting the best promotional material possible from her death.

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[1]  Neal Colgrass, Newser staff, October 7, 2014, 
[2] Don Colburn, “Last day of life all planned out, down to the polka,” October 26, 2007, available at