Brittany Maynard‘s grieving husband and mother spoke at an emotional news conference Wednesday and released a new video Maynard recorded 19 days before her death – with her passionate plea to lawmakers in California and elsewhere to pass ‘Death with Dignity’ legislation.
“The decision about how I end my dying process should be up to me and my family under a doctor’s care,” Maynard, 29, says in the six-and-a-half minute video made for the advocacy group Compassion & Choices. “How dare the government make decisions or limit options for terminally ill people like me.”
Hours later, the bill overcame its first hurdle when the California state senate health committee approved it.
Maynard was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer last year and moved from California to Oregon in order to access the state’s Death with Dignity law. She ended her life with medication prescribed by her doctor on Nov. 1.
“Unfortunately, California law prevented me from getting the end of life option I deserved,” she says. “No one should have to leave their home and community for peace of mind, to escape suffering, and to plan for a gentle death.”
Tim Rosales, a spokesman for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, said Maynard’s situation was not typical for a lot of reasons.
“Not everyone has the same access to the support systems someone like Ms. Maynard did,” he tells PEOPLE. “Thankfully, such serious public policy decisions ask our lawmakers to consider those less fortunate and vulnerable, not just those of privilege.”
Maynard’s mother, Debbie Ziegler, tearfully spoke of Maynard’s fight to survive at the news conference in Sacramento, California.
“My daughter wanted more than anything to live,” she said. “She was full of love and zest and energy for life.
“When it became clear – after an 8-hour craniotomy and months of searching for cures – that Brittany’s tumor was going to kill her in an agonizing and terrifying way we all came to understand why Brittany wanted to consider aid in dying.”
Maynard’s widower, Dan Diaz, was emotional as well as he described the peaceful way she died – in her own bed, surrounded by her loved ones.
“She avoided a long, drawn out painful death,” said Diaz, 43, as he wiped away tears. “It harmed no one else. On the day Brittany died she said, ‘I love you.’ I said the same thing to her repeatedly. I kissed her face. A lot.”
The bill will next go before the Senate Judiciary committee on April 7.
Among those testifying against it Wednesday were Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund.
“It’s a ‘deadly mix’ to combine our broken health-care system with assisted suicide, which would instantly become the cheapest treatment, ” she said.
Ziegler submitted her daughter’s written testimony and testified herself about why she supported her daughter’s decision.
“Being a good mother meant letting go when everything inside me screamed, ‘Hold on,’ ” she told the lawmakers.
Christy O’Donnell, 46, a terminally ill former LAPD sergeant and attorney, testified that she wishes she could legally end her life when her suffering becomes too great.
“I don t want to die,” she said. “I want to live and hold my grand babies. But terminal brain and lung cancer are killing me quickly and very painfully.
Maynard said in the video she just wanted everyone in the country to have the same choice she did – and not have to move to another state to get it.
“Every one of us will die,” Maynard says at the end of the video. “We should not have to suffer excruciating pain, shame, or a prolonged dying process. The laws in California and 45 other states must change to prevent prolonged, involuntary suffering for all terminally ill Americans.”