Major Media Outlets Fail To Accurately Tell the Entire Story

by Project Censored

Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman who was terminally ill decided to terminate her life on November 1, 2014. Maynard was diagnosed with brain cancer on January 1, 2014 and was told she still had some years left to live. When Maynard started getting more headaches that kept getting more severe over time, she went to get another check up and found out she had Glioblastoma multi forma which is the most severe type of brain cancer and only gave her about six months to live. The Oregon Death with Dignity law requires that a patient be diagnosed as terminally ill by two different physicians, and must wait 15 days between oral requests for medication to end her life. Maynard also had to be a resident of Oregon, so she purchased a house in Oregon. Consequent to meeting the legal requirements she was given the pills to take whenever she chose.  While there was widespread overage by the corporate media the story, it failed to report accurately and fully about the provisions of the law. For example, some reports did not mention that Maynard moved from California to Oregon to avail herself of the law.  This is important because not everyone can afford to move to Oregon and therefore those who are poor are likely to be disadvantaged by the lack of such a law in their own state.  Instead the corporate media tended to present the story as though Maynard’s home was in Oregon.

Arturo Garcia, “29-year-old California woman will end her life on Nov. 1, and she wants you to know why,” Rawstory, October 7, 2014

Bill Briggs, “Death With Dignity Advocate Brittany Maynard Dies in Oregon,” NBC News, November 2, 2014.

Nicole Weisensee Egan, “Terminally Ill Woman Brittany Maynard Has Ended Her Own Life,” November 2, 2014.

Catherine E. Shoichet, “Brittany Maynard, advocate for ‘death with dignity,’ dies,” CNN, November 3, 2014.

Lindsey Bever, “Brittany Maynard, as promised, ends her life at 29,” Washington Post, November 2, 2014.

Jessica Durando, “Brittany Maynard, right-to-die advocate, ends her life,” USA Today, November 3, 2014.

Student Researcher: Emilio Gil Vazquez, Indian River State College

Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College

Ethics Alert

Many News sites have published and shared the story of Britney Maynard in their own words, but by reading the original story from where it first started and now that the major media have covered it, I came across many articles that don’t cover some of the most important details of Maynard’s story. Some of the news articles I read even changed the actual things that happened. I found  mainstream media sources that failed to tell their readers about things Maynard had to do to get her medication that would kill her. There were changes to her life that she had to make; there were steps she had to perform just to get the medication that was going to end her life. Media sources misled us about these things.

Brittany Maynard was born in California and she lived there all her life until 2014 when she found out that she was terminally ill. Reading through some news sources, including CNN, The Washington Post, USA TODAY, People, and many more, I noticed that some of them did not even mention that she was from California and others glossed over it. California currently does not have a similar law. Oregon, however, is one of the few states in the United States that does have this type of law. Moving to another state because of a law that a certain state has and your hometown state doesn’t have is a serious matter, yet, some mainstream media providers failed to provide this information to their readers. Other media sources that have included the information that she was from California, mentioned it with moderate information. One of the sources only said “She moved with her family from California to Oregon, where she could legally die…” and did not bring it back up for the rest of the article. All of the articles that I came across, said, she was going to die or did die in her home in Oregon, but this is only a half truth because her true home was in California, where she lived for 29 years and the house in Oregon was just a place to stay while she waited until her husband’s birthday passed so she could take her life. The media played down or avoided entirely the ethical problem of making such a law available to everyone, not just those who can afford to move to another state.

What most of the media sources also wrongfully informed their readers about were the legal requirements to get the medication. None of the articles said anything about her having to go to two different physicians to be given the medication. Pursuant to the law, she had to go to one physician to be diagnosed with a terminal illness, and once she got the results, she had go to a different physician to have another examination with the same results. She also had to make two oral requests, and one in writing, as well as wait at least 15 days between the initial and the second oral request in order to obtain the medication. None of the major media sources told us this. As a result, the corporate media tended to oversimplify the story.