It’s been all over the news the last several weeks. California is nearing allowing assisted suicide in the state, joining Oregon and others that allow the practice. It is a part of a wider debate about the sanctity of life and the ability for a sick person to be able to control their life and ending it. It’s not a debate for the squeamish and comes with many moral and ethical concerns, to be sure. There are many parts of this debate and tremendous consequences of any decisions by the state.
Reuters reported on the legislation that is clearing the legislature. It is not immediately clear if Governor Jerry Brown will sign the legislation. He may not sign it but may allow it to pass by not vetoing it. The proposed law would only come into effect if a person has six months or less to live and if such a view was supported by two different physicians. The prospect of assisted suicide plays into the moral dimensions of such legislation and the amount that the law will come into play.
California’s government is playing with fire, legally and morally. How can a person be declared legally competent to make the decision to die? How would this effect the use of life insurance and ability for patients to pay for medical care? Would a patient choose suicide on purpose because they knew that the next six months of medical bills could bankrupt their families?
Would such a decision cut short the chances of patients that could have a miraculous recovery? Would some patients feel pressured into committing assisted suicide by their physicians because of personal or medical beliefs? Could a state mandate the death of its own citizens that did not commit heinous crimes? Could a hospital or the state deem a person too expensive to treat and have them ‘put down?’
It appears that the state legislature is not prepared to make such decisions on behalf of the many terminally ill patients in California. The unfortunate reality is that there are far more questions than answers that such a law would bring about and would serve as a gateway to a wider series of assisted suicide regulations that would come into effect over the coming years and decades.
California’s legal and medical systems are not ready for such determinations yet. The eagerness of the state to allow such errors is a sad reflection of the state of the state.