On Monday, October 5th, 2015, ABX2 15, also named “End of Life Option Act” [among other names] was signed by California Governor Jerry Brown. The bill passed the state Assembly with 42-33 votes, and in the Senate with 23-14 votes. This bill is said to be intended for terminally ill patients who are told they have six months or less to live. There are specific requirements for a patient to receive this lethal prescription. Said requirements are as follows: 1) patients must be “mentally competent,” 2) patients must self-administer the drug, and 3) two doctors must agree on the diagnosis of the patient before compounding and dispensing the prescription. When determining mental competence, external and emotional factors, such as depression, are excluded. As I read through the stories on this topic, different sources revealed opposing viewpoints. Some stories were written in a predisposed manner, where the writer’s personal views were exposed but with no mention of where those views originated from (i.e. did that writer grow up in a “religious” family?) Other stories were written and based on the facts of the matter rather than the previously mentioned format. The stories that were presented in a fact-of-the-matter manner shared both sides of the story—those who for the End of Life Option Act and those who are against it.
Many of the stories mention, in some way, the difficult journey Governor Brown endured in making the decision to sign the bill. These stories mention how Brown consulted his friends and professionals, including a Catholic bishop and two of his personal doctors, when coming to his decision. It was also noted that Brown reflected on his own life and what he would want if he was in the position of being terminally ill.
Governor Brown is a known democrat, which instantly makes me question “would his decision be different if he was a republican?” Similarly, I would question if his religious beliefs would change his decision if he were apart of some other domination or religion. In NPR’s article, written by April Dembosky, Dembosky mentioned other democratic political figures and quoted their support of the End of Life Option. Though Dembosky also mentioned a few opponents, it was noticeable that she didn’t specifically classify them as Republican. For example, she wrote “Marg Hall, an advocate with the Bay Area disability rights group Communities United in Defense of Olmstead, said she was “disappointed” and “worried.”” After reading through this story again, I got the impression that Dembosky believes all democrats must be for the right-to-die bill because no identified democrats were quoted to oppose it.
In contrast, San Jose Mercury News writer, Lisa Krieger, included results from a new Field Poll that found individuals who are “least likely to support the bill are political conservatives and born-again Christians.” Krieger wrote about this poll to show the relationship between “religious and political party lines” and how there seems to be an obvious connection between the two.
CNN mentioned an interesting political viewpoint from the organization named “Californians Against Assissted Suicide.” This viewpoint noted that millions of people who are constrained by poverty, disability, or other obstacles are limited to the usage of the end-of-life treatment option. After interpreting this more, I wish I could influence readers to think about this lethal prescription as more than just a tool to accelerate a dying citizen’s death. This drug, like most prescriptions, will not be free. For some terminally ill patients, it will not be affordable nor realistic to pay this high price to end their suffering. Most patients and their families in these cases are drowning in medical bills; the thought of adding an additional cost to stop accumulating more bills may be frightening.
Throughout all of these stories, Catholicism seemed to be the only religion mentioned. Time refers to Governor Brown as “a Catholic who at one point considered joining the priesthood,” and Fox News refers to Brown as “a lifetime Catholic and former Jesuit Samarian… who consulted a Catholic bishop.” Fox News press wrote on to say “Religious groups, including the Catholic Church…say it legalizes premature suicide…” pointing out specifically, again, the Catholic Church. New York Times specifies that, as opponents, “the Catholic Church has called [the right-to-die bills] immoral.” Similarly, San Jose Mercury News specifically pointed out that the Catholic Church opposed the bill. When these stories continuously mention the Catholic Church, they are making this legislative issue a religious issue. A bill is a government document, separate from any religious scripture. I believe that the government should decide to legalize a new law in the manner of “is this going to be beneficial or hurtful to the citizens?” Legalizing a new law should not be a matter of “is this accepted from a religious stand point?”
“What’s more fundamental about being human than whom you love or how you die? Decisions around these reside with the individual, not the state,” said Toni Broaddus, a veteran LGBT activist (Religion News Service). This quote stood out to me when reading over these stories about the “right-to-die” bill. Every human dies, therefore it should not necessarily be a “right.” I believe that it should be up to the individual how they die, without interference of outside groups voicing their opinion. Just like you should be able to choose who you love, you should be able to choose how you die.
This bill should not be a matter of right and wrong, good or bad. It should be available for individuals to take advantage of when needed, without fear of being criticized during their final minutes or seconds of life. If a citizen is in excruciating pain that cannot be controlled with other prescription medications and is essentially suffering as they wait for the day they stop breathing to come, they should know the option is available to end the pain. The medication is not going to be meant for everyone and I believe the media failed to mention this. Failure to include all details and multiple perspectives of such a serious, intimate topic leads readers to be uninformed.
Greg Bothelho, “California governor signs ‘right to die’ bill,” CNN, 10/06/2015 (http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/05/us/california-assisted-dying-legislation/).
Editorial Board, “Jerry Brown makes the right call in signing California’s right-to-die bill,” The Washington Post, 10/09/2015 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jerry-brown-makes-the-right-call-in-signing-californias-right-to-die-bill/2015/10/09/99aebe20-6c5d-11e5-b31c-d80d62b53e28_story.html).
Josh Sanburn, “California Governor Signss Right-to-Die Bill,” TIME, 10/05/2015 (http://time.com/4061941/california-governor-right-to-die-assisted-suicide-bill/)
April Dembosky, “California Governor Signs Landmark Right-To-Die Law,” NPR, 10/06/2015 (http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/10/05/446107800/california-governor-signs-landmark-right-to-die-law).
Editorial Board, “California’s Right-to-Die Bill,” The New York Times, 09/22/2015 (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/22/opinion/californias-right-to-die-bill.html?_r=1).
Mollie Reilly, “Right To Die Becomes Law In California,” Huffington Post, 10/05/2015 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/right-to-die-california_560c6037e4b076812700b6d8).
Tanu Henry, “End of Life Option Act also makes right-to-die available to Medi-Cal insured,” Compton Herald, 10/13/2015 (http://comptonherald.com/californias-right-to-die-law-the-facts/).
Charles C. Camosy, “California’s right-to-die law betrays the state’s progressive principles,” Los Angeles Times, 10/07/2015 (http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-camosy-the-wrong-right-to-die-decision-20151007-story.html).
Associated Press, “California governor signs the right-to-die bill,” Fox News: Politics, 10/06/2015 (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/10/06/california-governor-signs-right-to-die-bill.html).
Khorri Atkinson, “California passes right-to-die bill,” MSNBC, 09/12/2015 (http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/california-passes-right-die-bill).
Lisa M. Krieger, “Right to die: California Gov. Jerry Brown signs law,” San Jose Mercury News, 10/05/2015 (http://www.mercurynews.com/health/ci_28924368/brown-signs-right-die-law).
Cathy Lynn Grossman, “California governor faces final call on right-to-die bill,” Religion News Service, 10/01/2015 (http://www.religionnews.com/2015/10/01/california-governor-faces-final-call-right-die-bill/).