In January 2015, the Canadian Supreme Court reversed a decision from 20 years ago which said that it was illegal to assist someone who was very ill from taking their life. The most recent ruling impacting the entire country now states that “death with dignity” is an inherent right of all Canadian citizens. In the USA seven states (Montana, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, New Mexico, California, and Colorado) now have either statutes of case law which mandates that patients who are ill and dying must have the right do death with dignity through assisted suicide, or specific statutes that prescribed the regulations that must be followed. There are strict guidelines that must be met to qualify for receiving the life ending medicines.
It may be of interest that Archbishop Desmond Tutu has written on this subject stating that death with dignity should be an inherent right and that Nelson Mandela was not accorded this at the end of his life. He was kept alive for about four months on machines… longer than his body would have naturally survived.
A celebrated case involves Brittany Maynard who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in February of 2014 and given nine months to live. She chose to move to Oregon and qualify through their Death with Dignity Law. She did secure the medicine to end her life and announced that she would end her life on November 1st (the announcement has been removed from the web since this was posted). Taking the medicine on her own is an important requirement of the law. Her symptoms and debilitation from her cancer were growing. Brittany was afraid to wait any longer for fear that she would not be able to take the medicine on her own because of the growing cancer in her brain. And indeed, she made the choice and died on November 1st.
Her mother has taken the courageous step of advocating that the California legislature pass a “Death with Dignity” bill. Her mother explains how Brittany was forced to establish residence in Oregon in order to qualify for this humanitarian program. It is a both heart breaking and inspiring presentation.
If you support this initiative, you can advocate for Death with Dignity in your state. Contact you senator and representative.
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