The widower of Brittany Maynard, the young woman who propelled the assisted suicide movement into the mainstream, is speaking out to urge more states to legalize assisted suicide as it continues its deadly spread across the globe.
Maynard was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a form of brain cancer, and in 2014 publicly announced her decision to commit suicide rather than die naturally. In her final month of life, she raised money for Compassion & Choices, an assisted suicide advocacy organization formerly known as the Hemlock Society. The group has advocated for terminally ill, elderly, and disabled individuals to die by assisted suicide. It has also published booklets advising people on how to kill themselves through starvation.
On November 1, 2014, Maynard killed herself with the support of her family.
Meanwhile, her widower, Dan Diaz, has continued to push for legalized assisted suicide in every state throughout the country. In a new interview with PEOPLE, he spoke again about continuing Maynard’s efforts to allow other people to undergo assisted suicide.
“There were plenty of tough times, don’t get me wrong, but there is also the emotion of just being immensely proud of her wanting to make a difference for other people,” he said. “That, for me, is what plays out in my mind. I’m able to grieve that Brittany’s gone but also feel pride in her.”
At the time of Maynard’s death, just three states allowed assisted suicide; today, that number has risen to 10.
In the interview, Diaz complained that disability advocacy groups have fought back against efforts to legalize assisted suicide — rightly noting that it would be dangerous for their community. Yet Diaz also previously argued that living a life with disabilities is not a life worth living.
“If I find myself in a situation where I can’t go to the bathroom on my own, where someone has to change my diapers, where I can’t feed myself, where I can’t care for the people around me, where other people have to move me around to keep me from having bed sores, I would then submit, is that really living?” he asked. This is indeed a life that many people with disabilities live throughout the world, and they do believe that they are living full, happy, meaningful lives.
Diaz also argued that assisted suicide makes the dying process easier for loved ones.
“Of course, the patient is the one that is suffering through the disease, but from the family’s perspective, they all go through that as well,” he said. “And for me, the relief that the medication provided Brittany, and her outlook on life, her desire to truly live the time that she had left, simplified things. It made things a lot easier for me as her husband, for family, for friends, because the job simply becomes supporting Brittany.”
This kind of disturbing mindset does, in fact, lead many people to feel that assisted suicide is a better option for them; studies have found that people who are elderly, disabled, or dying do not fear the pain and suffering they may endure, but fear being a burden on their loved ones.
In stating that his wife’s suicide “made things a lot easier for me,” Diaz affirms that a person’s concerns of burdening family members are valid — pushing them towards suicide even when their families don’t support it.
“In Brittany’s own words, end of life options do not result in more people dying,” argued Diaz. “It results in fewer people suffering.”
Yet, the opposite has been found to be true. The legalization of assisted suicide actually works to increase suicide rates overall. Glamorizing suicide has not led to fewer people “suffering,” but has diminished health care for vulnerable groups — the mentally ill, the elderly, and the disabled — which absolutely increases suffering.