The state of California has become the fifth state in the USA to pass assisted death legislation for those with terminal illnesses, titled the End of Life Option Act.
Passed on Monday, Governor Jerry Brown said: “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 wouldn’t deny that right to others.”
The Act is based on a law passed by Oregon in 1997, the first state to allow assisted dying. The law sketches out the process of consideration for those seeking to end their lives. For instance, Section 443.3 a) states:
“An individual seeking to obtain a prescription for an aid-in-dying drug pursuant to this part shall submit two oral requests, a minimum of 15 days apart, and a written request to his or her attending physician. The attending physician shall directly, and not through a designee, receive all three requests required pursuant to this section.”
Last year in Oregon, 105 people’s requests for assisted death were approved. With enough public support, the Act could come into effect next January, or as late as November 2016.
Last month, the UK government rejected the right to die for England and Wales by 118 to 330. It was the first vote on the issue for 20 years. Just before, in May, the Scottish government also pushed down right to die legislation, by 82 votes to 36. Despite its failure to pass, the support did grow since the previous vote in 2010.
This is a positive step in giving people the rights they deserve at the end of their lives. One of the women behind the new Act, Susan Eggman, correctly states we have a “death-denying culture.”
This is true in both the USA and in the UK, where death becomes a taboo topic. It is seen as a cruelty to end someone’s life, even if that person has no hope of recovery.
It is promising 10 percent of America’s states now have assisted dying legislation, and hopefully others will follow suit. It may well set an example for the UK, and other European nations.