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The Fight for a Dignified Death

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The California State Assembly passed The End of Life Option Act, on September 11, in an effort to legalize physician-assisted suicide. The bill must be approved by Governor Jerry Brown before it can go into effect. In order to be qualified to choose assisted suicide, one must be mentally cognizant of his/her decision, physically able to swallow the pills, have a terminal illness, and meet several other stringent requirements. This is a right people should have.

California is not the first state to consider physician-assisted suicide. According to the Death with Dignity National Center, Oregon passed the Death with Dignity Act in 1997, while Washington and Vermont passed similar acts in 2008 and 2013. All of these states outline very specific qualifications for patients, in an effort to ensure that the only motive for patients to die is to end the suffering they are experiencing as a result of their illness, and not other external factors. While it is difficult to determine the exact motives behind physician assisted suicide requests, some believe that patients should not be robbed of the right to end their suffering due to the small possibility that their intentions have other influences.

Just because someone is allowed to commit assisted suicide, or has the prescription to do so, does not mean he/she must go through with the act. In 2013, 122 patients in Oregon received prescriptions, allowing them to end their lives, but 28 chose not to use them (Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act 2013 Report). Whether patients decide to die by taking pills or naturally, they should have peace knowing they hold the sole power to make the decision, not the law.

In an article published by CNN, 29 year old Brittany Maynard gained national interest as she advocated for her right to “die with dignity.” Maynard suffered from brain cancer and learned that she only had six months left to live. With the support of her family, she moved from California to Oregon because it offers residents the right physician assisted suicide. Maynard explained “I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.”

While many Californians believe assisted suicide is immoral, it remains imperative that Californian patients be given the freedom to choose whether or not they want to pursue this option, as the choice to end their suffering should ultimately be their own. Maynard’s mother wrote a letter that was published in Compassion & Choices, a charity that supports the right to die, in which she claimed that everyone should have the“choice to die gently rather than suffer physical and mental degradation and intense pain.”

Maynard, like many other patients who seek physician assisted suicide, would rather be healthy than dead, but understood the reality of her situation. She valued her dignity and refused to endure the physical degradation that would occur as her final months passed by. Maynard passed peacefully on November 1, 2014, surrounded by her friends and family. Her story is a reminder of the importance of free will, especially when it comes to serious decisions like ending one’s life.

People should have the right to die, especially those who are already terminally ill. It is immoral to force people to suffer through the last six months of a terminal disease. Their death is already guaranteed, and dragging it out against the will of the patient sounds like cruel and unusual punishment.

My name is Julian Zucker. I’m a senior and this is my first year doing journalism. I am the treasurer for M-A’s debate club. I also volunteer for a summer camp, as an Operations Specialist. I rowed freshman through junior year, but had to give it up because of a back injury.

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