What Dave said. Death is not the only meaningful way to change a character; it's just the most bluntly obvious way. Using it as some kind of benchmark for creative freedom is superficial and lazy.
I mean, in the novels in recent years, Riker and Troi have had a daughter, and Picard and Crusher have married and had a son. Those are profound, life-changing events, just as much as a death, but far more positive. So why doesn't that get just as much attention as what happened to Janeway?