This is Death with Dignity?

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A recent op-ed in the LA Times may read like a strong argument in support of the new physician assisted suicide law in California, but as the title hints, this law does not provide patients with a terminal illness any dignity. And as the author points out, perhaps inadvertently, the real-life implementation of this law  is reckless with zero safeguards to protect vulnerable patients.

In the op-ed, the author details her aunt’s and family’s struggle to take advantage of the new physician assisted suicide law in California after her aunt was diagnosed with ALS. And while the aunt finally did commit suicide with lethal medication prescribed under the law, the details of how it took place are frightening and should be a warning to any other states considering such a law.

Here are some of the scariest parts of how PAS works in the real-world:

  • The lethal prescription was delivered via Uber (an on-call taxi service.)

“The pharmacy had promised to get the drugs to us by 2:30 p.m. We waited. We called. The package arrived at 5. Thousands of dollars of lethal medication had been handed to an Uber driver to deliver.”

  • Part of the lethal prescription was given to the patient by her niece despite the law requiring the patient to self-administer.

“The anti-seizure pill I placed under my aunt’s tongue.”

  • The author concludes that the law is too restrictive in how and when a patient can commit suicide.

“We had been forced to assist in the most bizarre fashion, jumping through seemingly random legal hoops and meeting arbitrary deadlines while my aunt suffered, and finally emptying capsules, making an elixir so vile I cried when I knew she had to drink it. This was death with dignity?”

The author is essentially arguing that the supposed “safeguards” in the law are already too restrictive and should be weakened in order to make it easier to commit suicide by lethal prescription. That really is scary.

Presented with the facts of how PAS is applied in the real-world, we are left to conclude that this law is extremely flawed and puts patients at risk for abuse. Supporters of PAS across the country continue to ignore the realities of what they are proposing.

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