Last Wednesday in the California State Senate, Sens. Lois Wolk of Davis and Bill Monning of Santa Cruz introduced a new bill to make assisted suicide legal in California. Entitled the End of Life Option Act, the bill is designed to legalize assisted suicide in the state of California.
Wolk and Monning have apparently struck while the iron is hot, considering that the legislation comes on the heels of the death of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old New Jersey woman with terminal brain cancer who ended her life late last year in Oregon. Maynard went to Oregon because state laws permit assisted suicide, and before her death she also called for enactment of legislation in her home state and elsewhere.
If California passes the new bill, it would join Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, and New Mexico as the sixth state to do so. While it's easy for the media to focus on individual cases like Maynard's, Californians should keep in mind the wide-ranging and hardly positive consequences that would ensue with the possible passage of the End of Life Option Act. Every one of us can sympathize with Maynard's pain and that of her family, and no one seeks to prolong human suffering. And every state in America already allows for sedative palliative care that will allow a suffering patient to die on their own time - but not by their own hand.
The End of Life Option Act could very well produce a horrific result, however unintended: an upsurge of elder abuse and effective murder by those who prey on our senior citizens. Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Defense and Education Fund, explains:
Where assisted suicide is legal, an heir or abusive caregiver may steer someone towards assisted suicide, witness the request, pick up the lethal dose, and even give the drug -- no witnesses are required at the death, so who would know? This can occur despite the fact that diagnoses of terminal illness are often wrong, leading people to give up on treatment and lose good years of their lives.
Golden then examines the ramifications of introducing assisted suicide laws into a profit-driven health care system. When suicide is the cheapest option available (total cost for two lethal pills being $300) and "life-sustaining expensive treatment is denied or even merely delayed, patients will be steered toward assisted suicide, where it is legal." Such circumstances would mark a transition toward euthanasia, inexpensive "mercy killing" by a system that coldly weighs financial costs and benefits with no regard at all for human life. The sick, the elderly and incapacitated, even those who are merely depressed - all can be viewed as useless and disposable in such a utilitarian framework.
As Holland's disastrous experiment with assisted suicide has already proven, so-called death with dignity becomes a convenient means of determining who's fit to live or die, a decision no one among us has the right to make. The End of Life Option Act should be stopped dead in its tracks - don't open the door to predators.