On Wednesday, a group of cancer and former cancer patients filed a lawsuit with the San Francisco County Superior Court to allow doctors to provide their terminally ill patients fatal doses of medications upon request whenever patients find suffering unbearable.
The lawsuit request from the court a ruling that would exempt doctors that provide fatal doses of prescription drugs to their patients that had chosen so from criminal prosecution under the state law.
California legislation does not sanction suicide or attempt suicide as a crime but it does sanction as murder the act of assisting somebody who wants to commit suicide.
But Kathryn Tucker, one of the counsels of the case and director of the Disability Rights Legal Center, argues that doctor-assisted death of terminally ill patients is not suicide. Ms Tucker also says that California lawmakers did not explicitly prohibited doctor-assisted death, and even if they did that would impinge on patient rights.
Ms. Tucker also stated that patients “trapped in a dying process” they find unbearable should have the right to turn to their doctors and ask for fatal medication that would bring them a “peaceful death.”
In California, several state lawmakers recently proposed that the state should allow doctors help their dying patients by hastening their death and not be charged with murder.
One of the patients involved in the trial in 53-year-old Christie White who was diagnosed with leukemia but now she is in partial remission from cancer. She fears that if her body rejects the transplanted marrow, her cancer will return and she will have very limited choices at her disposal. Ms. White now urges the state of California to allow her and other patients to choose to have “peaceful and dignified death.”
Retired physician Robert Liner, 70, who is also involved in the lawsuit and former leukemia patient, said that he was fighting for the patients’ right to say “when enough is enough.”
However, physician-assisted death is very controversial and many fear that if it gets legalized it may be a slippery slope. Opponents of assisted suicide claim that if the law gets changed society may soon say that it is ok to aid in death severely debilitated children or senile elderly, out of mercy and compassion.
Opponents also say that legalizing physician-assisted death would raise a series of moral issues in doctors. Many of them may be put under a lot of pressure by families to perform the act, although it comes at odds with their deep inner convictions,
Also, opponents of the practice argue that giving a lethal dose of medication to any patient would mean the doctor will break his/her Hippocratic Oath, which specifically states that “Nor shall any man’s entreaty prevail upon me to administer poison to anyone; neither will I counsel any man to do so.”
Image Source: HLI