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Speaking Out Against Assisted Suicide

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Stephanie Packer and her husband help their children make lunch. Photo: Stephanie O'Neill/KPCC

Last week the California State Senate's Appropriations Committee passed SB 128, a bill for the legalization of assisted suicide, onto the Senate floor for a general vote. The bill would enable doctors to prescribe lethal medications to patients with terminal conditions, all in the name of "death with dignity." The legislation was launched after Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old Anaheim woman with terminal brain cancer who took her own life in Oregon under that state's assisted suicide laws.

SB 128, also known as the "End of Life Options Act," would make California the sixth state in America to enable assisted suicide. Yet what its promoters don't disclose is that the bill would also enable predators - elder abuse and undue influence could now be perpetrated in their most deadly form. If assisted suicide is legalized, there are a number of gaping loopholes that can only reward unethical and criminal behavior. Let's examine the features that will lead to classic system failure:

  • Insitutionalized Lying: Doctors would be required to lie about cause of death. Rather than assisted suicide, a physician will name the underlying terminal illness as the cause of death.
  • Lack of Oversight: California's medical system is already plagued by a lack of oversight. We are being told that doctors should prescribe lethal medications for patients to take on their own - a prime opportunity for undue influence by a bad actor who wishes to seize control of a victim's estate.
  • Devaluing Life: The net effect of SB 128 will be to cheapen the value of dying patients' lives. Instead of palliative and hospice care for the terminally ill, more and more assisted suicide will be presented as a cost-effective default option by the state and private health care providers.

Let's also look to another case of a terminally ill woman, 32-year-old Stephanie Packer. Stephanie, a resident of California, was diagnosed three years ago with scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that is causing her lungs to harden. Yet Stephanie is not giving up - she loves life and lives it with dignity together with her husband and four children. As the mother of a committed Catholic family, she counts everyday as a blessing. When asked by reporters about assisted suicide, she had this to say:

Wanting the pain to stop, wanting the humiliating side effects to go away - that's absolutely natural... I absolutely have been there and I still get there some days. But I don't get to that point of wanting to end it all, because I have been given the tools to understand that today is a horrible day, but tomorrow doesn't have to be.

Let's get to work for a better tomorrow. We can uphold life as sacred and prevent predators from justifying elder financial abuse through a new assisted-suicide law. Call your state senator and tell them to vote no on SB 128.

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