After a highly contentious legislative battle, California has become the fifth state to legalize assisted suicide. On Monday, Governor Jerry Brown signed a new bill into law that allows Californians to kill themselves under certain conditions. Pro-Life advocates have expressed deep concern over the move, citing the patients who are likely to be pressured into killing themselves against their will and the slippery slope that such legislation has been known to effect.
The law comes just months after the death of Californian Brittany Maynard, who killed herself in Oregon eleven months ago during a battle with brain cancer. Maynard’s highly-publicized death was strategically orchestrated by C&C, formerly known as the Hemlock Society, to drum up pro-suicide sentiment among Californians (and internationally). The group’s well-funded marketing technique was successful, and 29-year-old Maynard became an overnight media darling whose death quickly catalyzed the pro-death movement in California.
The law allows a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of barbiturates to Californians certified as mentally competent by two doctors and with fewer than six months to live. Proponents of the law argued that suicide is a “right” for the terminally ill and posited that allowing individuals to kill themselves is “compassionate.” But policy analyst Marilyn Golden notes that, for every person who feels that the law would provide them with a compassionate death, many more are endangered by the accompanying threats of such legislation.
The law, Golden argues, could be a death sentence to patients who suffer from abuse, coercion, and even medical error. Pro-Life experts have pointed out that such laws are predicated on the logic that removing the sufferer is a valid means of addressing suffering. And there is no safeguard for the individuals who may become collateral damage in the wake of this devastating legalization of assisted suicide. As the most populace state in the country, California has the most to lose from the legalization of assisted suicide.