by Kaitlyn Nicolai
A lawsuit was filed last Wednesday against California in response to the state’s decision to overturn the law that would allow terminally ill patients to end their life.
The lawsuit is headed by Christy White, who has been fighting off lymphoma and leukemia for about seven years. Five other doctors – two of whom were recently diagnosed with terminal illnesses – are also plaintiffs in the case, providing both personal and professional experience to the controversial case.
If successful, the proposed bill would update the California Penal Code in section 401, which currently states that “Every person who deliberately aids, or advises, or encourages another to commit suicide is guilty of a felony”.
"I am suing the state of California to help me achieve a peaceful and dignified death at the place and time of my choosing," White said, according to an article on CNN.
The original bill was proposed by the family of Brittany Maynard, a twenty-nine year old cancer patient. She and her family received significant media attention when they moved to Oregon so that Maynard could legally end her life on her own terms. Maynard passed away on November 1, 2014.
As of this year, only five states – Oregon, Washington, Montana, New Jersey, and Vermont – have legalized what is called “physician-assisted suicide”, where the terminally ill patient is given the means to end his or her life. This is different from euthanasia, where the doctor has a more direct role in the administration of medication enabling the death of the patient. Euthanasia is legal in even fewer areas. For a more extensive discussion of these topics, go to here.
Proponents of the bill argue that there are too many moral grey areas concerning the issue. They argue that a patient, who could be in a very fragile state emotionally, may be making a quick decision before weighing their options. There is also concern over who may be influencing patients to take their life. Marilyn Golden, a spokesperson for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, stated that "Where assisted suicide is legal, an heir, that is someone who stands to inherit from the patient, or an abusive caregiver can steer them towards assisted suicide”. There are other ways, the organization states, to ease suffering, such as sedation.
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