California recently passed, and Governor Brown signed, the “End of Life Option Act (SB 128) that legalizes the right of physicians to offer patients a life-ending dose of medication. There are numerous requirements, including:
- the adult (age 18+) patient must have 6 months or fewer to live,
- the patient must request the medication,
- the patient must be determined to fully understand and agree to the consequences of their actions,
- the patients must be free of coercion,
- a consulting doctor must concur with the diagnosis,
- a checklist of other requirements must be completed, and
- the drug is to be self-administered.
There are other, sensible requirements too – that the patient not be alone, that next of kin is notified in advance, and so on.
I am grateful that I now live in a state that puts me in control of my future. Living with a terminal disease, it’s hard to go very long without recognizing that my life will probably be cut short. I imagine, too, that I am not alone in knowing how difficult death can be under such circumstances. Typically patients are left powerless, even with advance healthcare directives and DNRs, things happen. So this bill gives me some added measure of choice – one that I hope to address in my late 80s!
But it begs the question: What life is… Is it a heart beating and lungs breathing? Is it consciousness? It is the ability to be present and engaged? What we each believe is based on religious doctrine, communal norms, and even our gut instincts. The best I’ve been able to do is this: I want to be able to connect in a meaningful way with the world and those I love. Simple, but not easy. But hopefully the choice will be mine…
What is life on your terms?