The California Legislature this year will once again consider a bill to give Californians the same end-of-life options available under Oregon’s Death With Dignity law.
It’s called the California Compassionate Choices Act, and it will give terminally ill adults of sound mind the right to use prescription medication to control their own imminent deaths.
The Compassionate Choices Act, authored by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine and myself, has a better chance of passage than ever before. We have more supporters and more co-authors, and we now have the determined partnership of our newest joint author, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez.
The Compassionate Choices Act is about autonomy, privacy and the very unique rights of terminally ill Californians. We think people who will soon die from an untreatable disease should be able to decide how much pain they are willing to endure. And if they choose, they should be able to control their dying.
We know that nearly 7 out of 10 Californians want this right. Hardly any of them will ever need to control their own dying, and yet the vast majority of your friends and neighbors say the choice should be theirs to make.
Californians want to be able to discuss ALL their options with their physician if they are terminally ill. They need to know about hospice care, and about pain management. They want to be able to have these conversations in a way that respects their fundamental right to privacy – a civil right.
That is the core of the Compassionate Choices Act. It is about the freedom of the individual to make choices – and the freedom for your choices to be different from my choices.
Today, too many dying patients are forced to end their lives under the legal and accepted practice of “terminal sedation” – through a silent, medically controlled starvation, under heavy sedation, a process that can take weeks.
Some resort to tragic and desperate measures to avoid that fate, traumatizing their families in oftentimes botched attempts to obtain release. Others will have their final decisions made for them, by family members or physicians.
Californians deserve better and they know it. In poll after poll, California voters of all age and ethic groups, of all political persuasions, religious and not, say they want this right. We’re doing everything we can to ensure it for them.
Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka, is in her third term in the Assembly. She represents the North Coast of California, from Bodega Bay to the Oregon border.