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Beginning of the end for granny: California to permit medically assisted suicide


(NaturalNews) While some are hailing the measure as humanitarian, others are claiming that it only adds to a host of other laws and policy changes that are creating the impression among many that human life is no longer sacrosanct, no matter what.

Last October, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed new legislation permitting terminally ill people to request medication that will kill them from a doctor, otherwise known as "assisted suicide."

Shortly after Brown signed the bill, there was some confusion among the public about when it would actually take effect, due to the unusual manner in which the bill was passed – in an "extraordinary session" of the legislature called by Brown himself. Under such conditions, any law that is passed cannot take effect for 90 days after that session is adjourned.

The session just closed March 9, meaning that the End of Life Option Act will now go into effect June 9, NPR reported the following day.

"We're glad to finally have arrived at this day where we have a date certain," said Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel.

"It's a historic achievement for California, and for a limited universe of people dealing with a terminal illness," Monning added. "It could indeed be a transformative way of giving them the option of a compassionate end-of-life process."

'We want to protect people from abuse'

Disability rights advocates fought long and hard against the measure's passage last year, and now that it is set to take effect, they are continuing to voice concerns.

Marilyn Golden, a senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, told NPR that it is not possible to know, as one example, if a depressed patient who is suicidal went to several doctors first, who all turned down the lethal medication request, before finding one who would agree to write a prescription for it.

"We are looking ahead at measures to protect people from abuse, and to explore and inform doctors, nurses and pharmacists that they don't have to participate," she said.

NPR reported further:

As written, the law requires two doctors to agree, before prescribing the drugs, that a patient has six months or less to live. Patients must be able to swallow the medication themselves and must affirm in writing, 48 hours before taking the medication, that they will do so.

With passage of the measure, California became the fifth state to permit assisted suicide, joining Montana, Vermont, Oregon and Washington.

Across the state, patients with advanced cancer were happy about the news.

"It gives me a great peace of mind to know that I will not be forced to die slowly and painfully," said Elizabeth Wallner, in a release from Compassion & Choices, an aid-in-dying advocacy group.

Wallner, 52, of Sacramento, is a single mother who has stage 4 colon cancer that has metastasized to her liver and lungs. It is unclear whether she has tried any alternative treatments other than standard chemo- and radiation therapies.

"It gives great comfort to know that the agonizingly traumatic image of me suffering will not be my family's last memory of me," she said.

Endorsing patient suicide

For his part, Sen. Monning thanked those who worked to get the law passed.

"I really believe we use today to mark and dedicate the memory of some true champions," he said.

Other groups say such laws are ripe for abuse, including the Christian-centered Focus on the Family.

"For instance, once the lethal prescription is handed to the patient, there is no accountability of what takes place next," the group said on its website. "A third party (including someone who stands to benefit financially from the patient's death) could administer the drug to the patient without patient consent, even if the patient changed her mind and struggled against the overdose.

"Laws do not require consent at the time of death, only consent to obtain the lethal prescription - a distinction which can give someone other the patient the power to decide when death occurs. In reality, there is no protected 'choice' as proponents claim," the group continued.

Others argue that in a period when policymakers are focused on providing healthcare for all, it makes no sense to approve legislation endorsing patient suicide.






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