Daily Management Review

California the Sixth US State to Legalise Physician-Assisted Suicide


California the Sixth US State to Legalise Physician-Assisted Suicide
Despite intense opposition from some religious and disability rights groups, physician-assisted suicide will become legal in California under a bill signed into law by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.
The law is based on a similar law from Oregon that gives doctors permission to prescribe medication to end a patient's life if two doctors agree the person has only six months to live and is mentally competent.
Brown, a former Roman Catholic seminarian, in a rare statement accompanying the signing notice, said he closely considered arguments on both sides of the controversial measure.  This regulation makes California only the fifth U.S. state to legalize assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.

"I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn't deny that right to others," Brown said.
However the law makes it a felony to pressure anyone into requesting or taking assisted suicide drugs.  The law is to come into effect from January 1, 2016.
As a way to help end-stage cancer and other patients to die with less pain and suffering, the advocates for physician-assisted suicide have tried for decades to persuade the California authorities to legalize the practice. The demands finally won passage last month after failing six times in the legislature or the ballot box.
In recent times, there was nationwide publicity of the case of Brittany Maynard. This 29-year-old brain cancer patient had moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of that state's assisted suicide law and died there. The new regulation in California was introduced amidst heightened publicity about Maynard.
Maynard’s widower, who extensively and passionately lobbied for the bill when it was before the legislature in California said: "my wife, Brittany Maynard, spoke up last year to make a difference for terminally ill individuals who are facing a potentially harsh dying process”.
The Roman Catholic Church as well as other religious groups had strongly opposed the bill along with people with disabilities. The contention against the law was the vulnerable patients could be pressurized by unscrupulous caregivers or relatives to take their own lives.
Another argument for the opponents of the bill was that the while insurance companies would take advantage of the poor patients by offering to pay for the cost of life-ending drugs while not take responsibility for the expensive treatments that could save lives.
"There is a deadly mix when you combine our broken healthcare system with assisted suicide, which immediately becomes the cheapest treatment. The so-called protections written into the bill really amount to very little," said Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund in Berkeley.
However the voice of the advocates for the law was somewhat stronger and their argument that such a regulation would allow people who are terminally ill to die with dignity and greater comfort.
"My daughter did not die in vain.This is the option she wanted to end her suffering," said Dr. Robert Olvera, an advocate for the measure whose daughter succumbed to leukemia in 2014.
The law which comes into effect on January 1, 2016 has a life of 10 years unless it is extended.