TIME Laws

More States Considering Right-to-Die Laws After Brittany Maynard

Debbie Ziegler, the mother of Brittany Maynard, speaks in support of proposed legislation allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill patients during a news conference at the Capitol, Jan. 21, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif.
Debbie Ziegler, the mother of Brittany Maynard, speaks in support of proposed legislation allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill patients during a news conference at the Capitol, Jan. 21, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif. Rich Pedroncelli—AP

California legislators just introduced a bill to let the terminally ill end their own lives

After Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer last year, she decided to move from California, where she was born and raised, to Oregon. She chose it because Oregon was one of just five states in the nation that allowed Maynard to obtain medication to end her own life.

Since Maynard’s death in November, four states and Washington, D.C., have introduced so-called right-to-die legislation, including the one she chose to leave.

“The fact that Brittany Maynard was a Californian suffering from an incurable, irreversible illness who then had to leave the state to ease her suffering was simply appalling, simply unacceptable,” says California Senator Lois Wolk, who along with Senator Bill Monning, both Democrats, have co-authored a bill giving terminally ill patients with six months to live the ability to obtain life-ending medication.

(MORE: See Which States Allow End-of-Life Treatment)

The bill, which would require two independent physicians to determine that patients are mentally competent to make an end-of-life decision, is largely modeled after Oregon’s 1997 Death With Dignity law, which was the first state measure to allow terminal patients to end their lives. That law has become a template for other states considering similar legislation. According to the Oregon Public Health Division, 1,173 people have had end-of-life medication prescribed to them as of 2013; 752 have actually chosen to ingest it.

Only two other states have passed right-to-die legislation — Washington and Vermont — while judges in New Mexico and Montana have effectively legalized it by saying there is nothing barring doctors from prescribing life-ending medication.

For years, the so-called right-to-die movement was most associated with Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan physician known as Dr. Death for participating in dozens of physician-assisted suicides, one of which led to a conviction of second-degree murder. Maynard offered a far more sympathetic face for the movement. A 29-year-old newlywed who was diagnosed with brain cancer on Jan. 1, 2014, Maynard used her story to advocate for so-called death-with-dignity laws while publicly discussing her symptoms and plans for her last few weeks. She died Nov. 1 after taking doctor-prescribed barbiturates.

Since then, legislators from 14 states have either introduced or pledged to put forward right-to-die bills, according to Compassion & Choices, a national organization advocating death with dignity. The group says it conducted surveys showing that two-thirds of Californians support end-of-life legislation.

“The case of Brittany Maynard has brought this into focus for many Californians,” Monning says. “There’s a changed public attitude and increased awareness, and we think the time is right for California.”

(MORE: Death Is Not Only for the Dying)

Wolk acknowledges that actually getting the bill passed, however, will be a “heavy lift.” The measure could find support among some Democrats and libertarian-leaning conservatives, who often favor letting individuals make their own end-of-life decisions. But resistance will be strong from social conservatives in both parties. The Catholic Church, in particular, has long led the fight against similar measures around the nation. The church has already hired a lobbying firm from Sacramento to fight the bill, according to the Los Angeles Times. The American Medical Association, which believes that doctors shouldn’t be involved in life-ending treatment, could provide another obstacle.

Wolk expects the bill will make it out of committee and reach the Senate floor, but will have a tough time passing both houses of the legislature. It’s also unclear whether Governor Jerry Brown would sign it if it reached his desk. The onetime Jesuit seminarian has not publicly addressed the issue, according to the San Jose Mercury News. During his first stint as governor in 1976, Brown signed a law that gave terminally ill patients the right to end life-sustaining treatment if their death was imminent, the first of its kind in the nation

If the bill doesn’t pass, however, the issue will likely make its way directly to California voters. Compassion & Choices is already laying the groundwork to get it on the 2016 ballot as a referendum.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the number of states that have introduced legislation since Maynard’s death. Four states have introduced end-of-life bills, including Washington, D.C.

TIME Laws

24/7 Bars in Nebraska? A New Bill Would Allow It

Beers
Getty Images

No more last calls in the Cornhusker State, if bill passes

A Nebraska state senator introduced legislation Thursday that would allow bars in the state to stay open all night.

State and local laws generally require Nebraska’s bars to stop serving alcohol at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, state law requires bars to close at 1 a.m., but local governments can extend those hours to 2 a.m. through a supermajority vote.

But Sen. Tyson Larson, who introduced the bill, wants to change all that. The state senator told the Journal Star that getting rid of last call would prevent bars from “dumping too many people in the street all at once” while saying the move aligned with the “concept of free market.”

If the bill passes, Nebraska would join Louisiana and Nevada, two states that don’t require bars to have last call.

(READ NEXT: The History of Poisoned Alcohol Includes an Unlikely Culprit: the U.S. Government)

TIME Drugs

Maine to Test Some Welfare Recipients for Drugs

TIME.com stock photos Health Syringe Needle
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

New law requires testing for those with prior drug convictions within the past 20 years who indicate potential for drug dependency

Maine will soon begin to drug-test some welfare recipients with prior drug convictions as a condition to receive government aid, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced Wednesday.

The new rule calls for testing of recipients with a drug conviction from the past 20 years who also indicate potential drug dependency on a separate self-assessment. People who test positive for drugs, or refuse to take the test, will be required to enter a rehabilitation program to continue receiving aid.

“[Governor Paul LePage] is respecting the wishes of hardworking taxpayers who want to know that the hand up they provide is being used appropriately,” said Maine DHHS commissioner Mary Mayhew in a statement. “The goal of these benefits is not to subsidize poor lifestyle choices, but to help Mainers transition from a life of poverty to a life of prosperity.”

The new drug-testing rule, which applies to federal funding provided through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, will go into force within weeks, and has been years in the making. The legislature approved it overwhelmingly in 2011, but implementation was delayed as the state’s attorney general considered how to implement it while minimizing litigation. Attorney General Janet Mills approved a modified version of the rule last week.

The state is one 18 across the country that has enacted some form of legislation calling for drug testing for welfare recipients, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Such policies, while politically popular in some areas, have been criticized as bad regulations that are potentially unconstitutional.

DHHS spokesman David Sorensen maintains that Maine’s law is a “middle ground” when compared to the policies elsewhere. “The whole goal is an overall effort to ensure that welfare is getting people from welfare to work,” Sorensen said. “We’re not interested in helping people to maintain a lifestyle of welfare dependency.”

TIME Healthcare

When Can a Person Be Forced to Receive Medical Care?

'We subscribe to the principle that people should get to make decisions for themselves almost all the time'

Last week, the case of a Connecticut teenager, identified as Cassandra C., 17, made headlines. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Cassandra wanted to forgo chemotherapy altogether—a decision her mother reportedly supported. But in early January, child services took the 17-year-old into custody and on Jan. 8 the state Supreme Court denied the teenager’s request to not receive the drugs.

The state’s interference in a personal decision about health care provides a rare lens into when and how health officials can mandate health care. Forced treatment is rare, but it happens when people, most often minors and the mentally ill, find themselves in extenuating circumstances.

“We subscribe to the principle that people should get to make decisions for themselves almost all the time,” says Paul S. Appelbaum, a psychiatry, medicine and law professor at Columbia University. “The exceptions to that rule are rare. What we’re seeing play out in Connecticut is really the exception, not the rule.”

Competent adults in the United States are almost always permitted to make their own health care decisions, even if that means forgoing a potentially life-saving treatment. Even in cases of highly infectious disease, state laws don’t typically allow forced medical treatment. Instead, sick individuals may be quarantined until they agree to comply with treatment procedures.

The most obvious exception to the principle applies to mentally ill patients deemed incompetent to make their own health decisions. Though laws vary for long-term involuntary treatment between states, most jurisdictions allow short-term hospitalization for individuals thought to be a risk to themselves or others.

Read more: Dangerous Cases: Crime and Treatment

Minors have no official say when it comes to decisions about their health care; parents or guardians are typically charged with making treatment decisions on their behalf. (Minors do have the right to petition the courts to show that they are “mature”—something Cassandra from Connecticut did—and therefore capable of making their own decisions. Cassandra’s petition was denied.)

If parents refuse a recommended treatment, the state typically works with parents to reach a mutually agreeable solution, says Appelbaum. If the parties still can’t agree, the case may go to the courts. “The legal principles here are fairly consistent, but their application is not necessarily straightforward,” said Appelbaum of the difficulty of resolving health care issues in court. “There is no algorithm.”

When brought to court, judges weigh a range of concerns, including the consequences of leaving an ailment untreated. Life-threatening conditions are much more likely to result in forced treatment than, say, a recommended cosmetic surgery, said Appelbaum.

“How long is a person actually supposed to live, and why? Who determines that?” Cassandra wrote in a op-ed in the Hartford Courant. “I care about the quality of my life, not just the quantity.”

The court, which had previously ruled Cassandra’s mother unfit to make decisions on her daughter’s behalf, rejected Cassandra’s explanation and ordered her to undergo chemotherapy.

“This is a curable illness, and we will continue to ensure that Cassandra receives the treatment she needs to become a healthy and happy adult,” said a statement from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

TIME europe

The E.U. Plans to Spike Key Clean-Air and Recycling Laws

Prime Minister David Cameron Tries To Take A Harder Line with Europe
E.U. flags are pictured outside the European Commission building in Brussels on Oct. 24, 2014 Carl Court—Getty Images

The proposed laws are aimed at preventing tens of thousands of premature deaths and set a 70% recycling target by 2030

The E.U. is planning to scrap environmental laws aimed at averting tens of thousands of possible deaths, according to classified documents published on Thursday.

The leaked files propose the withdrawal of a plan for a clean-air law as well as a directive setting a target of 70% waste recycling by 2030, the Guardian reported.

The plan is reportedly being withdrawn because the commission in charge of it sees “no foreseeable agreement” with states that have a poor track record on recycling, and would not be able to meet the target without additional financial help.

Read more at the Guardian

TIME Crime

Utah Looks to Old Execution Method: Death by Firing Squad

Utah Firing Squad Ronnie Lee Gardner
The execution chamber at the Utah State Prison after Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad, with visible bullet holes, on June 18, 2010 in Draper, Utah. Trent Nelson—AP

State legislature may mandate firing squads if lethal injection drugs aren't available

Utah has a unique history with firing squad executions. The state used gunmen to execute Gary Gilmore in 1977, the first inmate put to death after the Supreme Court lifted a five-year moratorium on capital punishment. For years, it’s been one of just two states to allow the method as an option for inmates. And now, state legislators are looking to make it the default practice if lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

On Wednesday, the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee voted 9-2 in approving legislation that would bring back firing squads in executions. The bill, which will likely head to the full legislature early next year, would mandate a court hearing prior to an execution, in which a judge would determine whether the state had sufficient drugs to carry out lethal injection. If the judge ruled that drugs were lacking, a firing squad would be mandated; according to the Salt Lake Tribune, State Rep. Paul Ray says the state currently doesn’t have them.

MORE: Execution Problems Revive Talk of Using Firing Squads and the Electric Chair

Utah and Oklahoma are the only two states in recent years that have allowed firing squads in executions, but only Utah has actually used the method since capital punishment was reinstated. The practice soon fell out of favor following the highly publicized execution of Gilmore (famously captured in Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song). Public opinion soon shifted toward lethal injection, which became the go-to execution method nationwide and was widely considered more humane. Only three inmates — Gilmore, John Albert Taylor and more recently Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010 — have been executed by firing squad since 1997, all in Utah.

But states around the U.S. have been looking often into archaic and previously discarded methods, thanks to increasing reluctance from pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs to prison systems.

A similar bill in Wyoming that would allow the state to use a firing squad if execution drugs are unavailable advanced in September and is expected to be taken up by the full legislature next year. In May, Tennessee passed a law bringing back the electric chair if lethal injection drugs can’t be acquired or if it’s deemed unconstitutional. (Lethal injection, however, is still the default method of the capital punishment.) And legislators in Louisiana have attempted to revive the chair, but with little success.

TIME Laws

New Video Released for Right-to-Die Advocate Brittany Maynard’s 30th Birthday

Maynard, who died Nov. 1, became the face of the right-to-die movement

A new video released by supporters of the so-called Death With Dignity movement shows Brittany Maynard, on what would’ve been her 30th birthday, advocating for expanded right-to-die legislation around the United States.

The advocacy group Compassion & Choices has released the video, made in August, nearly three weeks after she died Nov. 1. Maynard had moved from California to Oregon in order to take advantage of a state law that allows terminally ill patients to obtain life-ending medication. Diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, she quickly became the face of the right-to-die movement, releasing several videos that advocated for more states to legalize the practice.

MORE: Brittany Maynard Could Revive the Stalled ‘Death With Dignity’ Movement

Only five states currently allow physicians to give drugs to people who have terminal illnesses. In the last few weeks, lawmakers have drafted or advanced right-to-die legislation in Colorado, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

TIME Laws

Arkansas Keeps ‘Patchwork Prohibition’ on Alcohol

Alcohol Liquor Store
In half of Arkansas's counties, liquor sales are prohibited. A constitutional amendment being voted on today would change that. Ted S. Warren—AP

Half of the state's counties are dry, and they're staying that way for now

Arkansas voted Tuesday against allowing alcohol sales statewide, preserving the status quo of “patchwork prohibition” that exists in half of the state’s counties.

With 96% of precincts reporting, 57% of voters said no to the Arkansas Alcohol Beverage Amendment, which would’ve changed the constitution to allow for the manufacture, sale and distribution of liquor, beer and wine across the state. Arkansas has one of the highest concentrations of dry counties left in the U.S. Thirty-seven are currently dry while 38 are wet.

The issue largely pitted churches, existing liquor stores in wet counties and rural, conservative residents against more liberal, populous counties and out-of-state retailers looking to get a foothold in previously dry regions. The ballot initiative appeared to have significant support as recently as last month. But support for the amendment eroded as its main opponents, led by Citizens for Local Rights, vastly outspent the initiative’s backers.

“We started late and didn’t have the resources to get our message out,” says David Couch, a lawyer and chair of Let Arkansas Decide, which led the campaign to legalize alcohol statewide.

Couch’s organization raised about $200,000 and was supported mainly by out-of-state convenience stores. Citizens for Local Rights raised $1.8 million from roughly 900 contributors, many of which were existing Arkansas liquor megastores, often near the border of a dry county.

Polling had shown growing opposition to the amendment in the weeks leading up to the vote. Citizens for Local Rights’ primary message was simple: Don’t let the liberal-leaning urban counties dictate to the smaller, conservative ones. Add in some help from local pastors and churches warning of legalizing a vice in heavily Christian areas, and it appears that message resonated with voters.

But Couch of Let Arkansas Decide says he’s not giving up. His next move is to try to get state legislators to reduce the threshold required to get the issue, known as the “local option,” on the ballot county by county. Signatures of 38% of registered voters within a county must be collected to trigger a vote.

“If that doesn’t work, we will refile the measure and start earlier,” Couch says. “And hopefully be better funded.”

TIME Election 2014

Arkansas Could Finally End Prohibition After More Than 80 Years

Alcohol Liquor Store
In half of Arkansas's counties, liquor sales are prohibited. A constitutional amendment being voted on today would change that. Ted S. Warren—AP

Voters will decide Nov. 4 whether to turn the state's dry counties wet

Drop a pin on a map of Arkansas and your chances of finding a stiff drink there are about 50-50. But that could soon change if enough residents vote for a constitutional amendment on Tuesday’s ballot that would open the entire state to beer, wine and liquor sales for the first time since the 1930s.

Arkansas is one of dozens of states that allow local municipalities to make their own decisions about selling booze, but only about 10 states actually have dry counties, most of which are in the South. The result is what’s known as “patchwork prohibition,” where the state is divided into wet, dry and even moist (beer and wine only) counties.

The divisions can be confusing, with wet cities occasionally in dry counties and highly-profitable liquor stores almost always parked just across the border from booze-less regions. In Texas, for example, 49 of the state’s 254 counties are wet, 11 are dry and the rest are a combination of wet and dry. Alabama has 25 dry counties, but many cities within them are wet. And in Kentucky’s 120 counties, 39 are dry, 32 are wet and 49 are some combination of the two. No state comes closer to an equal division than Arkansas, where 37 counties are dry and 38 counties are wet.

Opening these dry counties to alcohol sales has become an increasingly popular economic development tool. Several counties in Kentucky have used their “local option” to expand liquor sales in the last couple years, while voters in Alabama’s largest remaining dry city are considering a similar ballot initiative Tuesday as well (the 2012 push failed by close to 400 votes).

Unlike most other votes on the wet/dry issue, the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Initiative—which would allow the “manufacture, sale, distribution and transportation of intoxicating liquors” throughout the state beginning on July 1, 2015—is subject to a statewide vote. That’s because attorney David Couch, the chair of pro-wet group Let Arkansas Decide, found that the number of signatures required for getting the measure on the state ballot was not much more than what it would’ve taken in just the three counties he had initially targeted.

Couch’s main rationale is economic. He cites a University of Arkansas study showing that if Faulkner, Craighead and Saline counties were wet—three of the state’s biggest counties, and ones where Walmart has expressed interest in selling booze —they would each generate an additional $12 million to $15 million in annual economic activity. And he estimates the total statewide benefit of going wet at an additional $100 million a year. But Couch has other motives, too.

“These dry counties make my state look kind of backward, and I don’t like that,” he says. “This is a much more modern approach to alcohol regulation.”

The amendment seemed to have signs of support in September. But the opposition appears to have grown in recent weeks. Part of that may be a huge cash infusion from Citizens for Local Rights, a group opposed to the amendment. The organization has raised $1.8 million compared to $200,000 for Couch’s Let Arkansas Decide.

Citizens for Local Rights is backed largely by liquor retailers in wet counties that want to keep out new competition. The Conway County Liquor Association, for example, has given the group $540,000. All six counties surrounding Conway are dry. The amendment has also been criticized by religious leaders wary of making alcohol more available.

Brian Richardson, chairman of Citizens for Local Rights, casts the issue as a matter of regional autonomy—no small claim in a vote that will come down partly to rural turnout. “It’s a badly written, overreaching amendment that guts local communities from being able to make decisions on a local level,” he says. “It’s letting people in the more populous counties determine this.”

Couch says his only poll found majority support for passage, but it was conducted last month. Richardson says his group’s final survey points to partial prohibition remaining in place, with 58% of respondents opposed to the amendment.

“I hate to jinx ourselves,” Richardson says. “But I think we’ll have a decisive victory.”

TIME Laws

Brittany Maynard Could Revive the Stalled ‘Death With Dignity’ Movement

"In a way, the Death with Dignity movement has been waiting years for someone like Brittany Maynard"

Long before the world knew of Brittany Maynard’s wrenching decision to end her own life Saturday at 29 rather than continue treatment for terminal brain cancer, Eli Stutsman, an Oregon lawyer, began meeting with a group of physicians and businesspeople in Portland who shared his belief that the terminally ill should be able to decide how and when to die. The group started small, meeting first in public libraries, then graduating to a church and eventually a small office space. By 1993, they hammered out what would become the state’s Death With Dignity law, the first in the United States to give people with months to live the right to access lethal medication.

Then, as now, it was a polarizing idea. Earlier efforts to pass similar measures had failed in California and Washington.

“We were being hit with these overheated arguments, mostly from the Catholic Church,” Stutsman says when his group first went public with their proposed legislation. “It felt like we had made a horrible career mistake.”

But a grassroots campaign and lobbying effort built enough support, and in 1994 the bill Stutsman co-wrote passed the Oregon legislature. It took effect three years later, after an appeals court lifted a federal injunction prompted by legal challenges that the law violated the Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments. For the next decade, where a candidate stood on the Death with Dignity law became a crucial litmus test in Oregon politics.

The culture wars have since moved on. “Those days are long gone,” Stutsman says. “It’s not an issue in campaigns. There was a time when it was a big issue, but all of that has settled down.”

As the controversy faded, so did momentum for similar laws around the country. Oregon is one of only three states that allow aid in dying, which generally lets doctors prescribe drugs to terminally ill patients who are deemed mentally competent. In the 17 years since the law took effect, almost 1,200 people have used it to obtain medication to end their own life, according to the Oregon Public Health Division. About 750 have actually taken the medication.

Washington passed an end-of-life law in 2008 modeled after Oregon’s legislation, and Vermont did the same in 2013. The matter is fuzzier in two other states. Montana’s Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that state law does not prohibit end-of-life care, while a district court judge in New Mexico ruled earlier this year that terminally ill residents who are mentally competent have a constitutional right to prescribed end-of-life drugs. That decision is under appeal.

But the debate was revived by Maynard, a 29-year-old newlywed who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in April and decided to move from California to Oregon to take advantage of the state’s Death With Dignity law. She went through with it Saturday, and news broke Sunday after publication of this article.

“Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love,” she wrote on Facebook before dying. “Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more. The world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers. I even have a ring of support around my bed as I type. … Goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!”

In a way, the Death with Dignity movement has been waiting years for someone like Maynard. In the public imagination, the person most often associated with aid-in-dying is Jack Kevorkian, the late Michigan physician who was known as Dr. Death. Kevorkian claimed to have helped more than 100 people end their own lives through “physician-assisted suicide” (a term disliked by the death with dignity supporters), and he was eventually convicted of second-degree murder of one of his patients. Kevorkian raised Americans’ awareness of the issue, but not in the way many of its supporters had hoped.

Maynard may have been Kevorkian’s polar opposite: a young, sunny schoolteacher who should have had far more of life ahead than behind. Her story has resonated much more than those of most patients who utilize aid-in-dying laws, who tend to be in their 70s. More than nine million people have viewed a video of her describing her illness and talking about her recent wedding, how much she will miss her beloved dogs, and all of the things she wanted to do before she dies.

“Brittany Maynard is transformative for our movement,” says Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit organization that supports aid in dying. “I’ve never felt this energy or seen this level of engagement in any of our campaigns.”

Surveys show that Americans support having choice at the end of their life if they’re suffering from an incurable disease. Gallup polls have consistently found that about 7 in 10 Americans support doctors who help bring about “some painless means if the patient and his or her family request it.” Support may be waning, though it remains high. In a November 2013 Pew survey, 66% of respondents said that there are circumstances in which a patient should sometimes be allowed die, down from 73% in 1990. Meanwhile, 31% said medical staff should always do everything possible to save a patient, up from 15% in 1990.

Despite popular support, aid-in-dying has stalled in statehouses and on ballots around the country. It’s not exactly a galvanizing political issue, and the Catholic Church has staunchly opposed the measures that do find their way to a vote.

“Our opponent is well-organized and well-funded,” Stutsman says. “You could put this issue on the ballot anywhere in the country, and if there were no political campaigns organized around the issue, it would pass in every state. But if you look at where the money comes from and the political expertise and organization, it’s always the Catholic Church.”

The most recent battleground was Massachusetts. In 2012, the state included a Death With Dignity law on the ballot, and several polls showed what most national numbers indicate: about 60% of people in Massachusetts supported it, and many political observers predicted that the heavily Catholic state would actually vote it into law. But the measure failed, 51% to 49%. Of the $5 million spent to defeat it, about $4 million came from the Catholic Church or individuals with ties to the church.

“We think fundamentally that these laws institutionalize an injustice in which society decides some people’s lives are not worth protecting as others,” says Richard Doerflinger, associate director of pro-life activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Church sees the issue of a piece with suicide and abortion, all of which it opposes out of adherence to the commandment Thou Shalt Not Kill. Doerflinger says that even though surveys often show a majority of Americans and even Catholics say they favor of end-of-life legislation, many can’t bring themselves to vote for legalizing the practice.

It’s too soon to know the effect of Maynard’s heartrending story. Death with Dignity legislation is pending in Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and a measure may be introduced in Colorado in January. Supporters are optimistic that the young teacher’s ordeal may be enough to tip the balance their way.

“She brings it home to people in a way that hasn’t been brought home to them,” says Lee of Compassion & Choices. “So far, because it hasn’t been front and center and people have not had the awareness and the motivation to become activist about it, politicians have been able to ignore it. But I think they won’t be able to ignore it anymore.”

dignity

Read next: Terminally Ill Woman Who Planned Assisted Suicide Dies

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