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Californias

Terminally Ill Patients Call for Mercy


By Maria Estrada
Imagine being in severe pain to the
point where doctors cant find any other
medication to make it go
away, except for only a few
minutes or hours. Or maybe
being diagnosed with an
illness or disease that has
no cure and to top it off
receiving the news of, it is
only a matter of months

suffering from terminally ill patients who


wish to end the pain on their own.

In the end, I was left to reflect


on what I would want in the
face of my own death. I do not
know what I would do if I were
dying in prolonged and
excruciating pain. I am certain,
however, that it would be a
comfort to be able to consider
the options afforded by this
bill. And I wouldnt deny that
right to others.
- California Governor Jerry
Brown

before your body gives all

Californias End of Life


Option Act also known as
Physician Assisted
Suicide was signed by
Jerry Brown on October
2015, but did not go into
effect until June 9, 2016
(Gillespie et al., 2016). This

it can. Meanwhile, everyday until that day

act allows terminally ill patients to take

comes, you will be suffering from the illness

prescribed medications to die quietly and

with pain. Well now there is a solution here

peacefully.

in California just like in Oregon and


Washington. It is the End of Life Option
Act. Although many believe this bill

Who Can Request These


Prescriptions?

violates the Hippocratic Oath, the End of

In order to be eligible to request the Aid-In-

Life Option Act should continue to be

Dying Drugs prescription:

supported because it would reduce unwanted

1. an individual must be 18 years of


age or older

2. live in California

Senators Lois Wolk and Bill Monning

3. have a diagnosis from their

on January 21, 2015. (Gillespie. J et al.

primary physician of an

2016). Interesting to know that the

incurable disease which will

California End of Life Option Act is

result in death within 6 months

very similar to the Oregon Death with

or less,
4. voluntarily request the
prescription from their physician
5. be able to make a medical
decision on their own

Dignity with some modifications, as


the Death with dignity organization
reveals. As stated under the End of
Life Option Act, Government
Bureaucrats and programs of profitable
health insurances can lower cuts by

6. be able to take the drug on their


denying payments for patients
own after discussing the
process and effects of the drug
with a Physician. (The Coalition
for Compassionate Care of
California 2016).

treatments, which are needed. They can


now approve payment for less costly
treatment like the Assisted Suicide
Death (Patients Right Council 2015).
Californias proposal about this new
law was based off of Oregons Death

Californias End of Life Option


Act Vs. Oregons Death With
Dignity
Californias Senate Bill 128 (SB
128) another name for the End of Life
Option Act, was introduced by state

with Dignity Act. Some areas that the


Oregon Law differs from the
Californias new End of Life Option
Act is:

1. People who do not speak English

7. The End of Life Option Act

can use a language interpreter.

expires on January 1, 2026, if not

2. The attending physician must

renewed (Oregons law is

discuss the request for

permanent unless repealed by

medications with the patient (and

the legislature or voters).

their interpreter, if applicable)


alone (patients in Oregon are free
to bring anyone along).
3. There is no waiting period
between the written request and
the writing of the prescription.
4. The attending physician must
provide a separate form for the
patient to complete within 48

-(Death With Dignity 2016)


This new End of Life Option act can
positively affect terminally ill patients. It
already seems to be doing so in the state of
Oregon, when the Oregon Death with
Dignity Act (DWDA) went into effect back

hours prior to taking the

in 1997. For the past two decades patients

medications.

have been requesting these lethal ingestions,

5. Unused medications must be


delivered for disposal to the

making it a total of 1,327 people have had

nearest qualified facility that

DWDA written prescriptions and 859

properly disposes of controlled


substances, or if none is
available, disposed of by lawful
means in accordance with the
Board of Pharmacy or Drug
Enforcement Administration
guidelines.
6. Forms for physicians
are codified in the
statute (Oregons forms are
created by the Oregon Health
Authority through separate
administrative rules).

patients have died from ingested prescribed


medications under the DWDA as of
February 2, 2015 (Oregon Health Authority
2015).

Graph of DWDA received Prescriptions


in Oregon
Oregon.gov

Governor Jerry Brown Supports


The End of Life Option Act
Governor Jerry Brown himself has
personal issues with having an illness.
According to LA Times, he has survived
various brushes with cancer and has lost
family members, which make death a source
of humor, just like in May when he almost
wished to die, just to make the pain and
sickness go away for good (McGreevy
2015). In addition, McGreevy (2015)
reported that in 2011 he was treated for early
stage of prostate cancer a year later. Just the
fact that Governor Brown considered this, it
makes sense for any individual to feel the
same way. Anyone should definitely have
the right to decide what to do and not do
with his or her life if he or she is able to
make decisions on their own.

Terminally Ill Patients Supporting


The Act

The Death with Dignity organization


in California reports that because this act in
California is new and only began on June of
2016, the California department of Public
Health has not yet issued a report on the use
of the law. A case by LA Times shares that
Angelica Bloomquist, suffers from ALS also
known as Lou Gehrigs disease and wants to
be able to die through a prescribed
medication (Bermudez 2015). Angie joined
a lawsuit filed against the state to protect
physicians who prescribe lethal meds to
mentally competent, terminally ill patients.
She hoped to die at peace by being
prescribed a medication and thought it was
ridiculous the idea of having to move to a
different state to where it was already legal
(Bermudez 2015). Unfortunately, Angie
passed away on August 2, 2015 a year
before the bill she was hoping for would
help her die peacefully passed through the
Senate (LA Times 2015).

and proper performance formerly taken by


those beginning medical practice (Tyson
2001). Dr. Neil Wenger doctor and director
from UCLA health ethics center says, We
have always, up till now, been able to say
Angie Bloomquist

we will never hasten a death, Wenger said.

www.latimes.com

Suddenly, that bright line is not so bright.


(Karlamangla 2015). LA times also states

On the other hand, there was a case

that Dr. Wenger added that the Hippocratic

of Brittany Maynard, who lived in

Oath doesnt just say that doctors shouldnt

California with ravaging brain tumor who

harm patients, but specifically forbids

packed her stuff along with husband and two

providing poison to kill

dogs to move to Oregon where is was legal

someone (Karlamangla 2015).

before the bill was passed in California


(Health & Medicine 2016). Its not fair that
only some states get to choose when and
how they choose to die, everyone should
have equality and should continue to be
supported in the state of California.
Although doctors are trained to save
lives, this bill might be something that
makes them uncomfortable because it
violated the Hippocratic Oath. The
Hippocratic Oath is an Oath stating the duty

Physicians Against The Act


On the contrary, Physician Assisted
Suicide is not a forced procedure by a
Physician, instead it is an option for
conscious patients to request prescribed
drugs for freedom from suffering.
Physicians dont force their patients to
take medications just because they are
terminally ill and see no point for the ill

patient to keep living. It is more of an

Everyone should take into consideration the

option and patients have the right to

decisions of the pronounced terminally ill

decide what to do with their own lives if

patients because they have to be evaluated

they are capable of making decisions on

mentally health by passing the psychological

their own (Paul et al., 2005).

test before satisfying their request. Nelson

The Hippocratic Corpus gives a direction

(2016) explains it is a requirement for the

to know when medicine is no longer

patient to see a mental health specialist to be

helpful and know when to keep away. In a

sure of the judgment the patient is making.

Permanente Journal, there is a statement

Despite that the role of a Physician

in few words by an anonymous Physician

prescribing an aid-in-dying medication, it

as follows:

is not a traditional practice, doctors can

First I will define what I think of medicine

still have their own limits if they do not

to be. In general terms, it is to help someone

wish to participate in what they believe is

sick from suffering, to lessen the violence of

wrong. However, if they wish to honor a

their diseases, and to refuse to treat those

repeated request from a patient who is

who are overmastered by their diseases,

capable of making decisions on their own

realizing that in such cases medicine is

and confirmed terminally ill, prescribed

powerless (Shaner 2016).

medication is allowed, to help the patient

The Permanente Journal introduces

from suffering. Doctors should not be

an ethical approach of the new legalized

judged, this bill was not created to make

California act and to consider fairness in the

Physicians monsters. Therefore, it is an

decisions of the confirmed terminally ill

option for the patient, while the Doctor is

patients (Nelson 2016).

only honoring their request.

Although many believe this bill

violates the Hippocratic Oath, the End of


Life Option Act should continue to be
supported because it would reduce unwanted
suffering from terminally ill patients who
wish to end the pain on their own if they are
mentally healthy and are sure of what they
are asking for.

References

Bermudez, E. 2015. Great read fighting for her choice: A more dignified and peaceful death. Los
Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/local/great-reads/la-me-c1-assisteddeath-20150519-story.html

California Department of Public Health. (2016). End of Life Option.


Retrieved from https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Pages/EndofLifeOptionAct.aspx

Culp-Ressler, T. 2015. Governor wrestles with his own mortality, signs death with dignity law. Think
Progress. Retrieved from https://thinkprogress.org/governor-wrestles-with-his-own-mortalitysigns-death-with-dignity-law-4062e3ee86b5?gi=2b2fa212913a

Gillespie. J., Barta, C., Goguen. D. (2016). Californias end of life option act: Death with
dignity laws in your state, Nolo 7(2) 345-355.

Hallberg, B. (2016). How to tackle false death with dignity claims. CNSNEWS.com. Retrieved from
http://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/beverly-hallberg/how-tackle-false-death-dignity-claims

Health & Medicine. (2016). A better way A better way to die? Californias end-of-life law launches June
9 Retrieved from http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/health-and-medicine/article75967042.html

Karlamangla, S. (2016) As californias end of life act goes into effect, some doctors question
where to draw the line. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from
http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-aid-in-dying-doctors-20160606-snapstory.html

McGreevy, P. 2015. After struggling jerry brown makes assisted suicide legal in California. Los Angeles
Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-gov-brown-end-of-lifebill-20151005-story.html

Nelson, C. (2016). An ethics of permission: A response to the California end of life option act.
The Permanente Journal, 11(23). 123-134.
Oregon Health Authority, 2015, Public Health Institutional Review Board. Retrieved from
https://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/Deathwit
hDignityAct/Documents/year17.pdf

Paul. B., Bartels. D., Abbot-Penny. A., Rawles. L., & Ward. A. (2005). End of ethical care: An ethical
overview. Center for bioethics University of Minnesota, 43-44.

Shaner. M. D., (2016). Ethical analysis for physicians considering the provision of life-ending
medication in compliance with the california end of life option act. The Permanente Journal.
Retrieved from http://www.thepermanentejournal.org/issues/2016/fall/6169-california-end-oflife.html

Sharonyverhoek. 2014. The keep calm-o-matic.com. Retrieved from http://www.keepcalm-omatic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-no-more-pain/

The Coalition for Compassionate Care of California. (2016). End of Life Option Act. Retrieved
from: http://coalitionccc.org/tools-resources/end-of-life-option-act/

Tyson, P. 2001. The Hippocratic oath today. PBSsocal. Retrieved from


http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/hippocratic-oath-today.html