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The purpose of this blog is to stimulate thought and discussion about important issues in healthcare. Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of CMDA. We encourage you to join the conversation on our website and share your experience, insight and expertise. CMDA has a rigorous and representative process in formulating official positions, which are largely limited to bioethical areas.

Questions Arise in Brittany Maynard’s Suicide

July 9, 2015

by Karl Benzio, MD

Excerpted from Psychologist Questions if Brittany Maynard’s Family Pressured Her to Commit Suicide,”LifeNews. June 18, 2015 — When Brittany Maynard killed herself last year in an assisted suicide in Oregon, she has been discussing making such a decision for months leading up to her eventual suicide. But the day before she killed herself with the lethal cocktail, Maynard said it wasn’t the right time to end her life.

The fact that she ultimately took her own life the next day, just 24 hours after saying she wasn’t really ready, is still one of the most perplexing twists in the saga surrounding her life and death. Now, a psychologist who is affiliated with a group working to stop a bill in the legislature in California, Maynard’s home state, from legalizing assisted suicide, is asking some serious question about whether Maynard may have been pressured by her family to commit suicide before she was truly prepared to do so.

Psychologist Dr. Mark Hoffman, PhD is affiliated with a California-based group of vulnerable seniors who, he says, are demanding to know what really happened with Brittany Maynard. “In the most public suicide of modern history, a mysterious event took place which was never explained nor investigated. The current laws in Oregon do not allow for such investigations,” he explained.

Hoffman, of California Seniors Against Suicide, points out that, after months of media manipulation and promises of a November 1 suicide date, Brittany Maynard stunned the world when she proclaimed on Oct. 31 that she would not kill herself on Nov 1. She had rethought the circumstances, saying “I’ve decided it’s just not the right time.”

“At the very least,’ said Hoffman, “The facts clearly tell us that Brittany’s decision was NOT firm. She was clearly emotionally torn and uncertain, and she proclaimed that to the world.”


Founder, Executive Director and Psychiatrist at Lighthouse Network Karl Benzio, MD: “When Britney Maynard confidently stated she would delay her planned suicide, but then was dead the next day, many were confused and suspicious about what really happened. Performing a psychological autopsy, as per standard protocol in suicides, is conveniently blocked by physician-assisted suicide legislation, so we will never know how manipulated and tragic Mrs. Maynard’s final decision was.

“As a practicing psychiatrist for 25 years, I have been blessed to serve and treat thousands who contemplated suicide and/or have attempted suicide, including trauma victims in war-torn Iraq and victims of Joseph Kony’s brutal assaults in Northern Uganda. No matter the circumstances, seriously contemplating suicide does not occur easily or lightly.

“A suicidal person feels unable to control their life and is experiencing psychological and spiritual pain. Intense feelings of being a burden, disconnected, isolated, failure, fear, brokenness and losing control start to play tricks on the mind and let Satan conspire with our flesh to distort reality and find easy shortcuts to numb this pain. They can be easily manipulated or overly sensitive to innocent comments regarding the negative impact their situation is having on others.

“Her decision was obviously not firm, and her vacillation would indicate she needed protection, love and treatment we have vowed and been trained to deliver to every suicidal patient. We certainly didn’t vow to make it easier for her to kill herself or for others to kill her. As healthcare professionals, and most importantly Christians, we can and need to provide true compassion of coming alongside to share their burdens and deliver the answers of love, hope, connection, forgiveness, value, purpose and abundant life that Jesus proclaims and offers.

“For unique psychological tips from a biblical perspective providing practical equipping, please subscribe to Stepping Stones Devotionals.”


Karl Benzio, MD

Karl Benzio, MD

Karl Benzio, MD, is a Christian psychiatrist, Board Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. Karl has held several health system clinical director and management positions to infuse his unique integration of spiritual faith with science to treat thousands as well as write, consult, and serve as frequent media guest expert and conference speaker addressing the impact of a wide range of Behavioral Health issues and how to bring God’s healing to individuals, families, society, and social policy issues.