The Right-To-Die: An Individual Choice
He was a vibrant man, a brilliant and accomplished scientist, an ocean lover, a Korean Bar-B-Q and taco stand aficionado, an attentive husband, and an energetic father to two young boys. He was also my good friend who had the rare quality of truly listening. We believed he had a long life ahead of him, for he was only forty-two years old. Never did we think that he would have to contemplate the right-to-die! But life suddenly stopped on a quiet fall afternoon when he was hit with a devastating diagnosis: Glioblastoma Multiforme, the deadliest form of brain cancer. The prognosis was grim and frightening, six months to live, maybe a little longer. He chose to fight, doing everything possible, surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, gamma-ray therapy, clinical trials, even wearing a cancer helmet that delivered electric current to his brain to inhibit tumor growth. The list was endless, but never once did he consider halting the fight, bravely enduring each painful treatment, while continually searching for a miracle cure. He battled boldly to stay for his family, suffering immeasurably. Yet he could not be saved.
It was during my friend’s courageous struggle that I read the story of Brittany Maynard, the beautiful young woman who was also diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and chose to end her life through Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. When I saw Brittany’s exquisite face, her magnetizing green eyes staring from the cover of People magazine with the headline, “A Terminal Cancer Patient’s Controversial Choice: My Decision To Die,” my heart broke before I even read the article. Brittany was so young, only twenty-nine, newly married, with hopes of starting her own family. She too searched desperately for a miracle cure, but when there was none to be found, she decided she would not die an agonizing death, but would die how she chose. As California did not have a Death with Dignity Act, she moved to Oregon to complete her journey, dying peacefully surrounded by her husband, mother, step-father and best friend.
California Now Allows the Right-To-Die: The Death with Dignity Law
The same diagnosis, two different decisions. Each so valiant when one stops to think, REALLY think, what it would feel like to hear those terrifying words, “You have six months to live.” What would you do?
California now affords individuals a choice. In adopting a Death with Dignity law, California is the fourth state to do so, following Oregon, Washington and Vermont. California’s End of Life Option Act went into effect on June 9, 2016 and will remain in effect until January 1, 2026. The act is very extensive (codified in Health and Safety Code Sections 443-443.22), but in simple terms it allows an adult (18 years or older) who has been determined by his/her attending physician to be suffering from a terminal disease to make a request for a life-ending drug. A terminal disease is defined as “an incurable and irreversible disease that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment, result in death within six months.”
Strict Requirements for California’s Right-To-Die
As would be expected, the act sets forth strict requirements of the attending physician and patient, and requires completion of mandatory written forms. An individual must be a resident of California, but surprisingly there is not any minimum residency requirement. One may establish residency through possession of a California Driver’s License or other California issued identification, registering to vote in California, providing evidence of owning or leasing property in California, or filing of a California tax return for the most recent tax year.
Although the act requires the individual to self-administer the life-ending drug, the resulting death is not considered a suicide. This powerful provision ensures there will be no effect on life insurance, health insurance, or annuity polices as the death is considered a natural death from the underlying disease.
Remembering My Friend and Brittany’s Last Request
As I write this I am acutely aware that today is the one-year anniversary of my friend’s passing. I can still feel his light and courage. I also think of Brittany Maynard’s last request to her husband and mother that they continue her fight until all states have a Death with Dignity Act. The right-to-die should be a choice. Both beautiful souls, both who had wanted so badly to live.
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About Aleida K. Wahn, Esq.
I am an attorney, award-winning true crime writer, and legal analyst of criminal cases. I cover criminal trials and write stories about compelling, gripping, and unforgettable cases that impact our world. I take you into the courtroom in high-profile murder trials, rape cases, crimes of passion, cases involving mental illness, deviant behavior, and more. I have a deep passion for true crime, criminal law, and all aspects of the criminal justice system. I have appeared as an expert on true crime shows and provided legal analysis on high-profile criminal trials on Court TV, the Law & Crime Trial Network, Fox 5 News, ABC 10 News, and KUSI News. I also create and host shows with the Del Mar Television Producers Group, addressing criminal justice and social issues in recent criminal trials.
I provided my insight and legal analysis on Court TV and the Law & Crime Trial Network of the high-profile trial of former NFL star Kellen Winslow Jr. It was a trial that captured the nation as the heralded ex-football star with fame, fortune, and a famous name stood accused of multiple rapes and other sex crimes involving five women. As the trial delved into shocking facts, complicated legal issues, and unexpected twists and turns, I was there for every minute. After the trial, I wrote a book on the case, going behind the headlines to share the extraordinary details of what happened inside the courtroom. Judging Winslow Jr.: From NFL Star to Serial Rapist? Inside the Shocking Rape Trial of Kellen Boswell Winslow II is now available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07ZLM5HCG
I am passionate about telling true crime stories, as these penetrating stories have the power to move us all, while highlighting societal issues which need to be addressed. I have personally seen the human devastation which is present in each trial and believe there is a lesson to be learned in every single case. It is through awareness and examining critical issues society can effect change and even make new laws. To learn more, please visit: www.aleidalaw.com.