SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — It was a day that had been fast approaching ever since 29-year-old Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She wanted a choice.
“I wouldn’t want to suffer for weeks or be unconscious or lose the ability to speak and all of these terrible things that could happen,” she said.
Maynard left California and moved to Oregon where a doctor could then legally prescribe medication that would end her life.
Her life and death reignited debate over right-to-die legislation.
Her mother, Deborah Zeigler, joined California state Sens. Bill Monning and Lois Wolk on Wednesday as California became the 14th state to take steps toward the legislation.
“It’s a conversation that needs to happen across the country and in California, and that’s what this is about,” Wolk said.
“What we’re really looking at doing is creating a compassionate option for end of life choice,” Monning said.
But opponents say the freedom to choose death is often not a free choice at all.
“Financial and emotional pressures can also make people choose death when it’s not really their choice,” said Marilyn Golden with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. “It’s in a sense, a phony sense of freedom. Because the individuals are under pressure.”
Still, the choice for Maynard was clear. When she decided it was time to take her prescribed medication, she was surrounded by the people she loved.
“Yeah, you’re grasping,” Zeigler said. “But objectively, when you look back you say, thank heavens she went just so quickly and so sweet.”
Previous efforts in California have fallen short. Proposition 161 in 1992 fell by a 54-46 percent margin. Two pieces of legislation were introduced in 2005 and 2007, but neither made it.