Few of us know when our last day is approaching. But Brittany Maynard knew. In fact, she chose it.
Maynard, 29, ingested prescribed barbiturates to end her life on Nov. 1, a date she publicly decided on as the day she would die rather than submit to the deteriorating effects of the terminal brain cancer she’d been diagnosed with in January. Maynard moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of the state’s so-called death with dignity law, which allows physicians to prescribe life-ending medication for terminally ill patients. Similar laws exist in just two other states. (Courts allow it in two more.)
In her final weeks, Maynard–a former teacher–became a prominent and vocal advocate for aid in dying, fundamentally shifting its image away from the days of Jack Kevorkian, the controversial Michigan doctor who participated in dozens of physician-assisted suicides in the 1990s. As the confident, sunny face of the “death with dignity” movement, Maynard worked to increase support for end-of-life treatment through videos in which she described her worsening disease. The images she released in her final weeks projected not death, but life: a young woman enjoying time with her family, visiting the places she’d always dreamed of seeing–even as aid-in-dying opponents appealed for Maynard to reconsider her decision.
She did not. Maynard died in her bed in Portland, Ore., with her family at her side–a final moment she had chosen weeks ago.
This appears in the November 17, 2014 issue of TIME.
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