Daily 49er

Physician-Assisted Suicide, Pro or Con?

The Daily 49er takes a stance on a pending state bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

Daily 49er Staff

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If you are a competent adult, as defined, you could have the right to make the informed decision to kill yourself – legally. Although the U.S. rid itself of the criminalization of suicide decades ago, there has been no softening of the stigma associated with the act of taking one’s own life. The general attitude toward the decision to do so is negative, and in many cases, critical.

As a group of “competent” “adults,” we would like to submit our request for the right to make the “informed decision” to die on our own terms if and when we are ready to do so.

A bill that could grant us that right sits in committee in the California Senate. This piece of pending legislation, SB 128, would “enact the End of Life Option Act authorizing an adult who meets certain qualifications, and who has been determined by his or her attending physician to be suffering from a terminal illness, as defined, to make a request for medication prescribed pursuant to these provisions for the purpose of ending his or her life.”

In other words, if you are 18 years or older, dying within six months and mentally stable (as confirmed by two different physicians), you would be able to receive a handful of lethal pills, and put yourself out of your misery.

Although it’s true that no one on our staff is ready to request such a prescription, we do believe that we should have the right to do so. Life is a precious, brief series of moments, and when a person is ready to say goodbye to it, it seems only natural that the choice be easy to make.

Groups like Californians Against Assisted Suicide criticize the pending legislation for a handful of reasons; this particular group’s primary beef with the bill is the use of “propaganda techniques,” according to its website. The group argues on its website that the wording of the bill forces voters to forget the harsh reality of blatant suicide.

We disagree. The bill’s wording, with phrases like “physician aid-in-dying,” doesn’t distract us from the fact that the purpose of the text is to legalize a dying person’s right to die. The reality of these kinds of circumstances doesn’t escape us for one minute; in fact, we find it emotionally draining that the conversation even need be debated at such length amongst the various legislatures.

The diction of the pending legislation does soften the impact of straight-up suicide – but that’s because it isn’t about a perfectly healthy individual, with an entire life to live, enjoying the right to harm him or herself. The bill is about people lying in wait of death, who are no longer interested in the misery that such a wait can bring.

The text of the bill indicates that it “would establish procedures” for requesting “aid-in-dying,” which we appreciate as voters because, of course, mere legalization of such a controversial action could be abused very easily without structure. We have found the bill to be very thorough, especially because it includes a built-in protection from abuse.

With the several examples of dying patients seeking respite from their pain and suffering that fill the Google page after one searches for information about SB 128, it’s hard to believe that anyone could want to take the right to choose to die away. No one is pro-suicide. But we are pro-personal-choice.

We hope to see SB 128 make it through the Senate, where it sits in committee.

SB 128 includes the following definitions, and others:

Adult: “an individual 18 years of age or older”

Competent: “in the opinion of a court or in the opinion of an individual’s attending physician, consulting physician, psychiatrist or psychology, the individual has the ability to make and communicate an informed decision to health care providers, including communicating through a person familiar with the individual’s manner of communicating, if that person is available”

Informed decision: “a decision by a terminally ill individual to request and obtain a prescription for medication that the individual may self-administer to end the individual’s life, that is based on an understanding and acknowledgment of the relevant facts, and that is made after being fully informed by the attending physician of” five pieces of information pertaining to the patient and “the probable result of taking the medication prescribed”

Aid-in-dying medication: “medication determined and prescribed by a physician for a qualified individual, which the qualified individual may choose to self-administer to bring about his or her death due to a terminal illness.”

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