Life threatening illness is devastating to all involved and the grief filled road which leads to saying good-bye to one who is terminally ill is beyond words. Grief and mourning precede the actual passing, yet it also allows the one who is dying and their loved ones to have a time to say their final parting words.
Life and death walk hand in hand and all humanity must come to terms with the inevitable.
California has passed right-to-die legislation which allows life to be stopped short when terminal illness becomes part of one's future.
At the center of the debate was Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old California woman with brain cancer who drew national attention for her decision to move to Oregon to end her life.
Brittany Maynard's mother Deborah Ziggler made this statement after Brown's decision on the legislation.
She said, ” this (sic) allows true principles of mercy to guide end-of-life care for the terminally ill in California.”
Brown, a lifelong Catholic and former Jesuit seminarian, had a moral conundrum in this decision. His choice to sign the legislation goes against Catholic church, as well as Protestant church, doctrine.
The Catholic Church and advocates for people with disabilities opposed the legislation, saying it legalizes premature suicide and puts terminally ill patients at risk for coerced death. Opponents targeted Catholic Latino lawmakers, urging them to block its passage.
Advocates say that safe-guards are in place to protect individuals, but any legislation opens the Pandora box to unforeseen and unintended consequences.
The measure applies only to mentally sound people and not those who are depressed or impaired. The bill includes requirements that patients be physically capable of taking the medication themselves, that two doctors approve it, that the patients submit several written requests and that there be two witnesses, one of whom is not a family member.
What happens to the physicians, who live by the Hippocratic Oath “to do no harm”, and who refuse to be party to this new legislation? What if they refuse to write a prescription because it goes against their moral compass which draws on the foundation that all life is sacred?
Brown reflected on personal life and feelings when deciding to sign this bill.
“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” wrote the Democratic governor, who has been treated for prostate cancer and melanoma. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill.”
Feelings cannot be the guidepost of society, because feelings fluctuate. Bedrock foundational truths must be the reason for any legislation and though real life stories may sway one's feelings and therefore decisions, the government's chief purpose is to protect life, all life.
Thomas Jefferson said, “The chief purpose of government is to protect life. Abandon that and you have abandoned all.”
Has the government of California abandoned all? What say you?