Dan Diaz made a promise to his wife, who chose Nov. 1, 2014, as the day she would die, to push for medical aid in dying legislation nationwide.
Brittany Maynard and Dan Diaz had been married a little more than a year when Brittany was diagnosed with brain cancer and given six months to live.
Maynard, then 29, became the face of the right-to-die debate when they went public with the decision to move from California to Oregon to access Oregon's Death with Dignity law. Now, her husband's a voice in that same movement.
Diaz made a promise to his wife, who chose Nov. 1, 2014, as the day she would die, to honor her legacy and push for medical aid in dying legislation nationwide.
That mission brings Diaz to Florida this week, where he's speaking in eight cities. Diaz is slated for a talk from 2-4 p.m. Thursday at Cocoa Beach Public Library; reservations are requested at http://tiny.cc/Brevard or by calling 407-637-1699. The event is hosted by Space Coast representatives for Compassion & Choices, an Oregon-based end-of-life choice advocacy organization.
Diaz will speak in Naples from 10-11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Collier County Library, 2385 Orange Blossom Drive. Other cities on his schedule include Sarasota, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
"I still have good days and bad days ... sharing Brittany's story is the way that I keep my promise to her," Diaz told FLORIDA TODAY. "I am very proud of her advocacy ... there were only four states with this kind of legislation when she died. Now, we have 10. That in large part is due to her story, and my ability to share that with legislators to get these laws implemented."
His Florida stop comes less than a month after Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Boca Raton, introduced the Florida Death with Dignity Act — SB 1800. According to Compassion & Choices, it's modeled after the Oregon act, with strict guidelines, from criteria for qualified patients to waiting periods and rescinding a decision to end one's life, detailed in Rader's proposal.
While he knows that SB 1800 won't go anywhere this year — there is no companion bill in the Florida House — Diaz is confident Rader's move will help spark the conversation necessary for action in the future.
Diaz also hopes to see more conversation about end-of-life decisions, something he'll be talking about in his Space Coast appearance.
The Florida Death with Dignity Act is "likely going to take a very long time to become law," said Michael Farmer, Florida campaign manager for Compassion & Choices.
"So beyond that, we're also doing a lot of informational sessions on existing end-of-life options," Farmer said. "We want to give people the tools to plan now so they can take some level of control about what happens to them ... beginning to have these conversations with doctors and family members about what their end-of-life choices are."
There's no doubt, Diaz said, that there's widespread support for medical aid in dying.
A May 2018 Gallup poll found:
72% of Americans say doctors should be able to help terminally ill patients die.
Fewer, 65%, express support when the question includes "commit suicide."
54% think doctor-assisted suicide is morally acceptable.
Diaz said while religious convictions play a role in whether a person supports medical aid in dying, a 2016 LifeWay Research poll found 70 percent of Catholics in favor of it.
Pastor Ralph Nygard of Eau Gallie First Baptist Church, however, is not in favor of right-to-die legislation.
While he thinks "everyone has the right to refuse further treatment and surgery," Nygard said, "my basic stance is that God is the only one who has the right to end a life."
"I think with hospice organizations, there are a lot of ways in our final days to deal with pain," he said. "But as far as someone ending their own life, even very humanely with medicine ... that's not their call."
In one of the videos recorded by Maynard, one viewed by millions of people, she expresses her hope that more people will have the choice of death with dignity.
“I hope for the sake of other American citizens, all these people that I’m speaking to that I’ve never met, that I’ll never meet, that this choice be extended to you,” she said. “That we mobilize, that we vocalize, that we start to talk about it.”
There remain many misconceptions in the right-to-die conversation, Diaz said.
For example, he said, "Gallup still uses the inappropriate term 'euthanasia,' and LifeWay uses the inappropriate term 'assisted suicide.'"
Euthanasia, he said, is illegal in all 50 states, and is where a third party ends a person's life, usually through administration of medication through an IV. And in medical aid to dying legislation, the terminally ill person must be able to consume the medication on their own.
"Brittany had to drink a five-ounce mixture of a sedative that slowed her breathing," Diaz said. "She fell asleep within five minutes of taking the medication, and her breathing slowed to the point where she passed away after 30 minutes. It was very peaceful."
A person's decision to seek medical aid in dying has very little to do with whether they are conservative or liberal, he said: It's much more about individual situations.
"And I just have to remind them that this legislation does not result in more people dying. It simply results in fewer people suffering," Diaz said. "And that's what it's about."
Contact Kennerly at 321-242-3692 or email@example.com. Twitter: @bybrittkennerly Facebook: /bybrittkennerly
This story originally published to floridatoday.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.