US Senator John McCain, the Vietnam war hero and former Republican presidential nominee, has decided to end treatment for brain cancer after battling the disease for more than a year.
The family of the 81-year-old senator from Arizona made the announcement on Friday afternoon [local time], signalling the Republican stalwart was entering his final days.
Mr McCain was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour in July 2017 and has remained largely absent from Washington since December while receiving treatment at his Arizona ranch.
“Last summer, Senator John McCain shared with Americans the news our family already knew: He had been diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma, and the prognosis was serious,” read the statement from his family.
“In the year since, John has surpassed expectations for his survival. But the progress of disease and the inexorable advance of age render their verdict.”
“With his usual strength of will, he has now chosen to discontinue medical treatment.”
A prisoner of war in Vietnam for five years, Mr McCain later entered politics, in 2008 won the Republican nomination for president.
While absent from Washington, he has remained a central voice in US politics, issuing sharp rebukes to President Donald Trump over his close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Senators from both sides on Friday lauded Mr McCain’s service and expressed their condolences to the lawmaker’s family.
Senior Republicans including John Kerry and Mitt Romney described Mr McCain as a hero and man of great honour.
The son and grandson of four-star Navy admirals, Mr McCain served as a pilot during the Vietnam War before he was captured and held as a prisoner of war for five years between 1967 and 1973.
No man this century better exemplifies honor, patriotism, service,
sacrifice, and country first than Senator John McCain. His heroism
inspires, his life shapes our character. I am blessed and humbled by
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) August 24, 2018
John McCain, hero, 1973: pic.twitter.com/LaTGiwBY0N
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) August 24, 2018
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) August 24, 2018
My friend @SenJohnMcCain is an American hero and has spent his life serving our country. Franki and I are praying for the entire McCain family and wish them peace and comfort in the coming days.
— Pat Roberts (@SenPatRoberts) August 24, 2018
God bless John McCain, his family, and all who love him — a brave man showing us once again what the words grace and grit really mean. https://t.co/9aiLxCF24E
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) August 24, 2018
He entered politics in the 1980s and has served as Senator for Arizona since 1987. In 2008, Mr McCain secured the Republican nomination for president but was defeated by Barack Obama.
Despite identifying as a conservative, Mr McCain was one of the top five Republicans to back Mr Obama’s position on significant votes.
A strong opponent of Mr Trump, the senator has also bucked his party on several issues including the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
An advocate for expansive American foreign policy, Mr McCain has also been critical of Mr Trump’s isolationist approach to foreign relations and close relationship to Mr Putin, describing his performance as “disgraceful”.
In a blistering statement in July, Mr McCain criticised Mr Trump as a poor leader during a summit with Mr Putin in Finland.
“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory,” he wrote.
“The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naivete, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.”
Speaking to CNN last September shortly after he went public with his prognosis, McCain was optimistic, saying he was “very happy” with his life and what he had “been able to do.”