David Orentlicher has posted his opinion on the new California End of Life Option Act that makes it the fifth state to allow terminally ill residents to obtain a prescription for a lethal dose of medication, also known as “physician assisted suicide.” Oregon was the first state to legalize this in 1997 and set the tone for other states. All five states that have legalized aid in dying have the following safeguards: patients must be terminally ill, patients must be mentally competent adults, and patients must perform the life-ending act themselves. Orentlicher says,

For many patients, a right to aid in dying provides comfort even when not fully exercised. Among patients in Oregon who have received a prescription since 1997, about 35 percent died without taking the medication. Those patients benefited from knowing that they had the option to take the pills if their suffering became intolerable, relieving them of the psychological stress that can accompany the prospect that one’s terminal illness will impose even greater suffering.

Allowing aid in dying seems much more like letting seriously ill patients refuse ventilators or other life-sustaining treatment than letting depressed persons choose suicide.

Just as usual end-of-life laws allow patients to bring an end to the dying process by declining chemotherapy, dialysis, and feeding tubes, so aid-in-dying laws allow patients to bring an end to the dying process by taking a lethal dose of drugs. But aid-in-dying laws do not extend their rights to people who might want to end their lives because of psychological distress.

With their important safeguards, aid-in-dying laws have helped dying persons minimize their suffering while protecting against a slide down the slippery slope toward abuse.The Conversation

Find the full post here: Californians Now Have Right to ‘Aid in Dying’: How Did We Get Here?

Posted by Allison Trupp, Associate Editor, Wealth Strategies Journal