US right-to-die woman puts death on hold

US right-to-die woman puts death on hold
29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who suffers from brain cancer. -AFP

LOS ANGELES - A young American woman with terminal cancer who triggered shock and controversy when she said she would kill herself on Nov 1 now says she may wait a little longer.

Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old brain cancer sufferer, made headlines earlier this month when a video of her making her suicide threat went viral and was seen by millions of web-users.

On Thursday she released a new video in which she said she might temporarily delay her appointment with a self-administered cocktail of potentially deadly drugs.

"I still feel good enough and I still have enough joy and I still laugh and smile with my family and friends enough that it doesn't seem like the right time right now," she said.

"But it will come, because I feel myself getting sicker. It's happening each week," she said in the video posted on a site set up to raise funds to support right-to-die advocates: www.thebrittanyfund.org.

In January, Maynard was given six months to live and told her death would be painful because of the aggressive nature of her cancer.

She had been trying for a first child with her husband Dan Diaz at the time, but gave up due to her disease.

Maynard and her husband, who had just married when she began having severe headaches, moved from their home in California to Oregon, one of a handful of states with a "right-to-die" law.

A doctor could therefore prescribe her the medication she needs to end her own life, surrounded by her family in the bedroom she shares with her husband.

Earlier in October, a first video went viral. It has now been viewed more than 9 million times on YouTube. Some 3.5 million people have visited the www.thebrittanyfund.org website.

Her story has made headlines around the world: she was featured on the cover of last week's People magazine in the United States.

She has previously said she planned to end her life after her husband's birthday on Oct 26, but before her own on Nov 19. The new video was recorded on Oct 13.

Maynard has in recent weeks and months been working to tick off items on a "bucket list" of what she wants to do before she dies -- including traveling to the Grand Canyon last week.

She is currently on medication to limit the swelling of her brain, but which has the side effect of making her gain weight.

Debilitating seizures

A spokesman for Compassion and Choices, the right-to-die organisation helping Maynard manage her final days, said Wednesday she will likely end her life in the next week or two.

"Brittany's seizures are becoming more debilitating and frequent, so obviously her family worries about her suffering," spokesman Sean Crowley told AFP.

"November 1 always was a tentative date. It is now early November. Whether Brittany takes aid-in-dying medication depends upon if her dying process becomes unbearably painful."

Maynard's family, including her husband and her mother Debbie Ziegler, are supporting her all the way. "It sounds so cliche: We take things one day at a time," said her husband.

"But it's like, that's the only way to get through this," he added.

Ziegler added: "It's not my job to tell her how to live, and it's not my job to tell her how to die.

"It's my job to love her through it," she said in the new video.

Choices and Compassion spokesman Crowley added that, for Maynard's family, grief at her passing will likely also be accompanied by relief.

"Anyone who loses a loved one under and circumstances experience grief, but when your loved one dies with dignity, gently and peacefully by going to sleep after taking the medication, rather than prolonged suffering, it is a relief."

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