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Husband of right-to-die activist Brittany Maynard talks about her final hours and how 'she knew it was time'

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The husband of death-with-dignity activist and terminally ill cancer sufferer Brittany Maynard has spoken out about her final hours in a new interview.

Dan Diaz says his 29-year-old wife "knew it was time" when she chose to end her life with self-administered drugs prescribed by a doctor on November 1

Maynard was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive and lethal form of brain cancer, in April, and given six months to live. She made headlines by broadcasting her decision to die by assisted suicide, in order to further the death with dignity cause in the States.

Talking about Brittany's last day to People magazine, her husband Dan, 43, said: 

"We got up rather early and she was feeling a little weird. After a seizure she'd be unable to speak for a while and when she did, it was just gibberish. So when we got up there was a little bit of that. I said, 'Let's just sleep in.' 

"She wanted to go and take a hike so we all went and hiked. There were eight of us total and the dogs. We went on a trail that she liked and it was a good morning. Then we got back to the house."

Brittany and Dan on their wedding day

Brittany and Dan on their wedding day

Later that afternoon, Brittany "just knew it was time," Dan said, adding that her seizure that morning "was a reminder of how sick she really was." 

Brittany was surrounded by loved ones, including her husband, mother, step-father and best friend, at her home in Oregon at the time of her death. She had moved there from San Francisco earlier in the year, because it is one of just five US states with laws to help terminally ill people die.

Even as she prepared to take a fatal dose of secobarbital, Brittany was laughing and joking with everyone around her, Dan said.

"She was surrounded by the people who loved her and her passing was peaceful," he said, adding that further details were "sacred".

Just before her death, Brittany said goodbye to her friends and supporters in a message on Facebook. "Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love," she wrote. "Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me… but would have taken so much more." 

Brittany, 29, campaigned tirelessly for the right to assisted suicide in the States

Brittany, 29, campaigned tirelessly for the right to assisted suicide

Brittany and Dan

Brittany and Dan

Dan fully supported his wife's decision to die by assisted suicide and has pledged to continue her campaign in her memory.

"Brittany's symptoms were bad and they were getting worse," he said. "She did what was right for her and avoided needless suffering and a tortuous death."

 With the backing of the US charity Compassion and Choices, Brittany launched a video about her decision to die, in an effort to get the assisted suicide laws of Oregon rolled out across the US. 

"After months of research my family and I reached a heartbreaking conclusion. There is no treatment that would save my life and the recommended treatments would have destroyed the time I had left," she said, of her decision.

"Because the rest of my body is young and healthy I am likely to physically hang on for a long time even though cancer is eating my mind. I did not want this nightmare scenario for my family so I started researching death with dignity. I quickly decided that death with dignity was the best option for me and my family.

"I can't tell you the amount of relief that it provides me to know that I don't have to die the way that it's been described to me, the way that a brain tumour would take me on its own." 

Brittany

Brittany's husband on the front cover People magazine (in a picture with Brittany)

Newlyweds Dan and Brittany had just returned from a romantic New Year's escape in San Francisco wine country in January last year, when she was diagnosed with brain cancer, after months of suffering debilitating headaches.

Brittany had a passion for travel and since her diagnosis, she continued to arrange special trips with her loved ones, including a trip to Yellow Stone National Park with her husband Dan and a holiday to Alaska with her best friend.

Brittany's mother Debbie, who described her daughter as "very, very bright" and headstrong, promised Brittany that she would go on a travelling adventure to Machu Picchu after she died, and that Brittany "would meet me there".

"I hope to enjoy however many days I have left on this beautiful earth and spend as much of it outdoors as I can, surrounded by those I love," Brittany signed off in her original video. "I hope to pass in peace. The reason to consider life, and what's of value, is to make sure that you're not missing out. Seize the day. What's important to you? What do you care about? What matters? Pursue that. Forget the rest."

Currently only five US states - Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico — have laws to help terminally ill patients die, and the practise is illegal in the UK. Find out more about Brittany's campaign on The Brittany Fund or Compassion & Choices, or watch the video below.

Photos: Brittany Maynard

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