The following is a portion of a script from “Aid in Dying” which aired on CBS’s 60 Minutes March 13. Dr. Jon LaPook is the correspondent
“Brittany Maynard was dying of brain cancer when she decided to drink a lethal prescription to end her life. She was just 29 years old. Her decision made her a symbol in the debate about how much we should be able to control the time and manner of our own death.
“This is not euthanasia, when a doctor gives a patient a lethal injection. That’s illegal in all 50 states. Aid-in-dying, or what opponents call “assisted suicide” and supporters call “death with dignity,” relies on people taking the medication themselves. Oregon became the first state to legalize it 18 years ago, but because a nurse or doctor is rarely present, it’s remained mostly a private affair, practiced behind closed doors. We wanted to hear from patients and family members who’ve experienced it and are fighting to make it legal nationwide.
“Brittany Maynard had been married less than a year when the headaches began. This MRI revealed a deadly mass — it turned out to be brain cancer so aggressive doctors gave her only six months to live.
Brittany Maynard: All evidence points to the fact that this cancer will kill me.
Three weeks before she died, Brittany, bloated by medication used to control brain swelling, explained in an interview with CBS News why she was grateful to find a legal way to end her life.
Brittany Maynard: Being able to take a medication that allows me to slip into a sleep in five minutes and pass away most likely within the half hour sounds a lot better to me just as a human being, as a daughter, as a wife. And I think it sounded better to my family than reading about the alternative.
The alternative, husband Dan Diaz says, was for Brittany to endure weeks of agonizing decline.
Dan Diaz: Brittany said, “I’m not afraid to die. At this point I am not afraid of death. But I am afraid of being tortured to death.”
Dr. Jon LaPook: What did she mean by being tortured, specifically? What was she afraid of?
Dan Diaz: So those symptoms that she knew was coming for her, the torture for her would’ve been losing her eyesight and not knowing now who’s in the room. I mean, the seizures were bad enough as it was.
Dr. Jon LaPook: How about pain?
Dan Diaz: Pain was just constant.
But aid-in-dying medication wasn’t legal in their home state of California. So in the spring of 2014, Brittany told Dan it was time to pack up and head to Oregon…the closest of four states where it was legal. Once she became an Oregon resident, Brittany had to make two verbal requests — 15 days apart — to a doctor, fill out this written form, and have two physicians confirm she was mentally competent and expected to have less than six months to live.
The medication often prescribed is secobarbital. A barbiturate that in small doses causes sleep, in large doses, death. Here in Oregon a patient comes in with a prescription and gets a bottle of 100 of these capsules. Each one has to be opened up individually and one by one the powder poured into a glass and the contents dissolved in water.”
To read more about this controversial topic, visit http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-aid-in-dying-lapook/