Monday, March 26, 2007

Don't Be Cruel

Once again, California is tossing around a Death-With-Dignity/Assisted-Suicide/Euthanasia bill modeled on Oregon's law. This one is a little more tightly controlled than past version but is no less necessary than past incarnations.

This bill would allow those with terminal illnesses to end their own life, at their own hand. It would, however, require that the patient have a prognosis of six-months or less to live and that the doctor explain, in writing, alternatives in treatment and hospice care. All patients seeking physician-assisted-suicide would be required to undergo a psychological evaluation and only those found to be mentally capable could be allowed to request a lethal dose of medication. Further, patients would have to request a lethal dose of medication in writing with at least two unrelated witnesses present. In order for the death to be legal, the patient would have to take the medication of their own volition and action without any coercion from others. Actions intended to force a patient to end their own life would be considered in the highest class of felonies.

For most healthy people, the idea of killing oneself is outrageous. However, at the end of a life already being cut short by a painful and debilitating disease, there is often little dignity left. Those who would force such individuals to endure their diseases unwillingly are cruel and unjustified.

Certainly, many of those who are nearing the end of a struggle with terminal cancer, AIDS, or any one of a plethora of painful, life-ending diseases would not choose to take their own life. Their choice to continue living with their struggle should be considered as sacred as the choice others would make to end their own life. The benefits of living longer may, in some instances, outweigh the benefits of dying. A hastened death, however, may reduce some of these costs in some instances. Such costs can be measured monetarily, psychologically, in the burden of survivors watching family members struggle, and in the pain endured by the patient. Certainly, the decision to end ones own life should not be a choice taken lightly.

Fabian Nunez's AB 374 takes each of these factors into consideration and makes every effort to ensure that the patient is well informed and acting according to his or her own wishes. The freedom to end one's own life is a liberty that should be established under the law to allow already dying individuals the ability to cut short their suffering. Any action by government officials to prevent such freedom would be cruel.

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