March 18, 2016
In October 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown sent a bill to his legislature that would allow terminally ill patients to control their own deaths. California’s End of Life Option Act will go into effect June 9, 2016, making California the fifth state to legalize aid in dying. Vermont, Washington, Montana, Oregon and now California have all passed legislation enabling a terminal patient to obtain the drugs necessary to end his life at a time that he chooses. In all five states, two doctors must agree that the patient is terminal and has six months or less to live. Proponents of aid in dying legislation, or, physician-assisted suicide, argue that the laws in these five states provide patients a chance to die with dignity, while sparing themselves and their familiesweeks, or possibly months, of pain and suffering.
Opponents have expressed concerns regarding abuse, communication and coordination among nurses, physicians, pharmacists, and others who may play a role in guiding a patient towards self-medicating with lethal drugs. The testimonials of patients who were able to choose this option, and thereby assure that they would die in the company and comfort of their families, are quite moving and may serve to help physicians who struggle with the inherent conflict of healing their patients versus actually helping some of them to die.