You remember her fight to die on her own terms? Brittany Maynard's mission lives on for others.

Brittany Maynard took a medicine that ended her life. She shouldn't have had to make such an awful choice, but she was grateful to have a choice at all. Do you remember her? She was the bright-eyed, pragmatic young woman who moved with her husband to Oregon so she could die on her own terms instead of on cancer's terms. It was big-time national news.


Image used with permission from Dan Diaz.

Her family is still hard at work trying to make sure other people can have the dignity of their own choices, too. Here's her mom with a sweet story about banana pancakes and a more difficult story of how they went about getting the end-of-life medication Brittany needed.

Brittany's widower, Dan Diaz, has been an ardent spokesman for Death With Dignity laws. Here's something he shared with Upworthy that he'd like anyone opposed to Death With Dignity to consider:

"Brittany and I listened to the narrative that the opposition presents, but unfortunately their message is out of touch with the reality of what a person in Brittany's situation is facing. The opposition's message is based on fear, uncertainty, and doubt, concerning who should be in control of one's own dying process. And when they finish delivering their message they have not offered a solution or an alternative to a person like Brittany who is facing a torturous death. It seems their position is: 'We don't approve of what Brittany did, but we don't have an alternative to offer, so anyone in her predicament will just have to die in agony.'

Brittany refused to accept that position and simply took control of her own health care decisions. She voiced her disapproval of the current system in California, and because of her voice we are now seeing change occur. (It is with great pride in my wife that I continue what she began.)

I am not trying to force my position on anyone else, neither was Brittany. The strength of this law is that it is an option that the individual would need to pursue for him/herself. So I am merely trying to convey the reality of what Brittany faced and how it is essential that the individual should be the decision maker regarding their own circumstances. That's all Brittany wanted to establish."



If you think Brittany's story is just an outlier — one extreme fringe case in a world where most people don't want to have this choice — I have to show you something.

This is Cody Curtis and her husband.

She died using the Death With Dignity law when her terminal liver cancer made her suffering unbearable.

Image from "How to Die In Oregon," used with permission.

And this is Peter Scott.

Image from "How to Die In Oregon," used with permission.

And it doesn't stop with them.

In 2011, there were over a million terminally diagnosed patients using hospice services (end-of-life care). 65% of people polled expressed interest in laws to uphold their end-of-life decisions so that they can plan and stay in control of how their loved ones remember their time here.

And one of the most staggering statistics comes from a Compassion and Choices report on a recent Harris Poll:

"Three out of four Americans (74%) polled after Brittany Maynard utilized Oregon's Death With Dignity Act agreed that: 'Individuals who are terminally ill, in great pain and who have no chance for recovery, have the right to choose to end their own life.'"


Dan Diaz and Brittany Maynard. Image used with permission from Dan Diaz.

Self-reflection time:

Do you know anyone who's terminally ill, or have you lost someone who struggled through a vicious disease that they had no chance of surviving? Could you imagine a moment during their intense suffering where you could understand and support their decision to end their pain?

For me, it was my brother Alan and my grandma Dixie, who both died painful deaths from cancer. They are the reason why I care so much for this cause and wanted to share this story with our audience. Who are you going to share this piece in honor of?

Several years ago, you wouldn't have known what QAnon was unless you spent a lot of time reading through comments on Twitter or frequented internet chat rooms. Now, with prominent Q adherents making headlines for storming the U.S. Capitol and elements of the QAnon worldview spilling into mainstream politics, the conspiracy theory/doomsday cult has become a household topic of conversation.

Many of us have watched helplessly as friends and family members fall down the rabbit hole, spewing strange ideas about Democrats and celebrities being pedophiles who torture children while Donald Trump leads a behind-the-scenes roundup of these evil Deep State actors. Perfectly intelligent people can be susceptible to conspiracy theories, no matter how insane, which makes it all the more frustrating.

A person who was a true believer in QAnon mythology (which you can read more about here) recently participated in an "Ask Me Anything" thread on Reddit, and what they shared about their experiences was eye-opening. The writer's Reddit handle is "diceblue," but for simplicity's sake we'll call them "DB."

DB explained that they weren't new to conspiracy theories when QAnon came on the scene. "I had been DEEP into conspiracy for about 8 years," they wrote. "Had very recently been down the ufo paranormal rabbit hole so when Q really took off midterm for trump I 'did my research' and fell right into it."

DB says they were a true believer until a couple of years ago when they had an experience that snapped them out of it:

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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Two weeks ago, we watched a pro-Trump mob storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the results of a U.S. election and keep Donald Trump in power. And among those insurrectionists were well-known adherents of QAnon, nearly every image of the crowd shows people wearing Q gear or carrying Q flags, and some of the more frightening elements we saw tie directly into QAnon beliefs.

Since hints of it first started showing up in social media comments several years ago, I've been intrigued—and endlessly frustrated—by the phenomenon of QAnon. At first, it was just a few fringey whacko conspiracy theorists I could easily roll my eyes at and ignore, but as I started seeing elements of it show up more and more frequently from more and more people, alarm bells started ringing.

Holy crap, there are a lot of people who actually believe this stuff.

Eventually, it got personal. A QAnon adherent on Twitter kept commenting on my tweets, pushing bizarro Q ideas on many of my posts. The account didn't use a real name, but the profile was classic QAnon, complete with the #WWG1WGA. ("Where we go one, we go all"—a QAnon rallying cry.) I thought it might be a bot, so I blocked them. Later, I discovered that it was actually one of my own extended family members.

Holy crap, I actually know people who actually believe this stuff.

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Images via Canva and Unsplash

If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that being in a pandemic sucks.

However, we seem to be on different pages as to what sucks most about it. Many of us are struggling with being separated from our friends and loved ones for so long. Some of us have lost friends and family to the virus, while others are dealing with ongoing health effects of their own illness. Millions are struggling with job loss and financial stress due to businesses being closed. Parents are drowning, dealing with their kids' online schooling and lack of in-person social interactions on top of their own work logistics. Most of us hate wearing masks (even if we do so diligently), and the vast majority of us are just tired of having to think about and deal with everything the pandemic entails.

Much has been made of the mental health impact of the pandemic, which is a good thing. We need to have more open conversations about mental health in general, and with everything so upside down, it's more important now than ever. However, it feels like pandemic mental health conversations have been dominated by people who want to justify anti-lockdown arguments. "We can't let the cure be worse than the disease," people say. Kids' mental health is cited as a reason to open schools, the mental health challenges of financial despair as a reason to keep businesses open, and the mental health impact of social isolation as a reason to ditch social distancing measures.

It's not that those mental health challenges aren't real. They most definitely are. But when we focus exclusively on the mental health impact of lockdowns, we miss the fact that there are also significant mental health struggles on the other side of those arguments.

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