William Pietri

As I sat by my mother’s side three years ago, her surgeon told her: “This is what you will die from.” She was diagnosed with the same brain cancer as Brittany Maynard. Aggressive treatment doesn’t stop glioblastoma, but sometimes slows it. For my mom, it did neither. She died within months.

My mother, always brave, chose to fight until the end. But make no mistake: the end was bitter indeed. Her last months were occupied with the brutal side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. During the many days we spent in the hospital, I wondered: would she die from the treatment before the disease?

Brittany Maynard has made a different choice. Rather than waiting for the cancer to slowly consume her body and mind, she has decided the date of her death. Instead of spending her remaining days shuttling to clinics, she will be at home with her family.

Some call Brittany's choice cowardly. They are wrong. My family walked the other road with my mom to her last breath. My mother’s courage was not in her cause of death, but in the way she faced it. After her diagnosis, she considered all her options and picked the one that was right for her—just as Brittany did. Whether you agree with their choices, I ask you to support their right to make them.

With the laws that support DNRs and living wills, we say we must be able to decide for ourselves the manner of our deaths. Modern medicine has given us enormous power, and part of using power wisely is knowing when to stop.

Like my mom, Brittany Maynard consulted with her family and her doctors and decided what was right for her. She shouldn't have to spend her last days uprooting her life and leaving California to carry that out.

With a perspective, I’m William Pietri.

  • Michelle Walker

    Thank you for sharing your mom’s story with us. I only hope some day we (in every state) can make the same decisions both your mom and Brittany Maynard made.

  • Angela Brantley

    I loved this. Thank you.

  • ES Trader

    I absolutely agree with you and hopefully society will come to accept the futility and suffering of delaying the inevitable, my condolences on your loss and thank you for sharing a deep personal painful experience that must have been very difficult to narrate.

  • Thanks for the kind words, everybody. I appreciate it.

    • Beth Nelson

      Beautiful!

  • Beth Nelson

    I loved this piece! It is an individual’s choice. Respect it.

  • Janie M

    A death from a glioma is not pretty or kind for the person and their families who have to endure it. I saw it happen with a friend’s husband who was seizing, falling, couldn’t walk or talk….. and then my oldest sister was diagnosed last year, the Wed before Thanksgiving. She was flown to Shands for a biopsy and was brain dead and on life support on Saturday because the glioma started bleeding. I know for certainty she would have chosen Brittany’s path since these tumor’s usually return after chemo and surgery. The doctor’s said it was a blessing for her that the tumor started bleeding and losing her suddenly was and still is painful it truly was given what she would have faced.

    • I’m so sorry to hear it, Janie. There are no good ways these stories end. My thoughts will be with you this Thanksgiving.

  • Dugan

    Thank you for your well reasoned, heartfelt piece. Choice has always been an important issue to me and it is time to broaden the discussion to encompass this topic. To that end, it was generous of you to share your experience. Further, I hope Ms. Maynard realizes her goals at this difficult time and am saddened that she has to leave her home to do so..

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor