A decade ago, after the people of Oregon had passed the Death with Dignity Act, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in declaring it constitutional wrote that people have a right to the option of physician assistance to shorten a “protracted” and/or “agonizing” death.
Among the many safeguards of this law are the following:
1.Patient must be a resident of the state
2.Patient must be diagnosed with terminal illness within six months of death, by two physicians
3.Request must be voluntary, with no evidence of coercion
4.Patient must make three requests, one in writing, witnessed by someone other than family or primary care-givers
5.There is minimum 15 day waiting period between the first request and the dispensing of medication
6. Patient must be determined to be mentally capable
7. Patient may rescind request at any time
8. Physician will refer patient to counseling, if appropriate, make all treatment options known, and clearly discuss consequences of patient’s request
9. Physician will encourage patient to inform family
10. The Oregon Health Division enforces compliance with the law
This certainly is a rational and safe law, isn’t it? It has been operating for ten years now, without a single case of abuse being found, despite the efforts of the National Right to Life, and local allies, to pursue any opportunity to subjugate us to their personal dogma.
Yet we have not been able to pass a corresponding bill here in California, despite the fact that the law proposed here, would have even more safeguards. One could write a book about the relatively small number of people Right To Life has organized to assist them in their cruel efforts to prevent even dying people from having choice. In fact, Jon Eisenberg, a great lawyer, has done just that in his book, USING TERRI, which was recently published in paperback as “The Right versus The Right To Die.”
It seems that all the Republicans in Sacramento are in the grip of this relatively small but wealthy band of naysayers. It is standard practice to find this cruelty from Right To Life and the Republican party, but there are also some Democrats who are playing ball with them. These Democrats are unable to give rational reasons for their unwillingness to allow choice to dying people. In so doing, they are defying the will of the people, their constituents, 70% or more of whom, are decent and wise enough to see that democracy acquires its energy from choice.
I think that we in the Democratic Party, must work to change the minds of these legislators quickly, or remove them from office.