By Zachary Apperson
There have been many controversial bills, constantly argued and debated, proposed to state legislations only to be denied, yet brought back in following years. But in the last couple of decades, California has hosted one of the most heated debates, just this year passing a polemical law on physician assisted suicide.
Following Oregon, who legalized the Death with Dignity Law in 1994, California let their own version of the law, the End of Life Option Act, take effect on June 9, 2016. Views surrounding the law vary, from religious groups who vehemently abhor the stance on suicide to patients who beg for the opportunity to end their suffering permanently. Many doctors also stand against the implication of the new law, which reserves the right of physicians to refuse participation in aiding a patient’s death. Although many oppose the law, three states, other than California and Oregon, have already legalized PAS (physician assisted suicide): Colorado, Vermont, and Washington.
On a local level, Tustin High School teachers and students think alike. According to Mark Barry, a math teacher at Tustin , “As long as the decision is that of the individual, I think that people should be able to make that decision themselves.” He stresses the importance of the patient’s coherent abilities in determining what their viable options are, something covered extensively throughout the new statute. As many proponents of the movement are those same terminally ill patients, it not only demonstrates an understanding but to them, what is a necessity of volition.
Thinh Truong, a junior at Tustin High, admits how sad it’d be to watch one of his relatives take their own life, however acknowledges, “…it would be best for them because I wouldn’t want to see them suffer.” This is a reality for some American families, enduring the hastened deaths of their loved ones, while having to accept their choices.
The movement carried the hearts and hopes of all those who advocated for it, literally. Angie Bloomquist, another supporter of PAS, had a severely aggressive case of ALS. While she may have been alive for her last years, if you had asked her, it was anything but living. Once a mother and wife, she claimed she had lost her identity and detested the thought of being remembered in the state her body had reduced itself to, rather than the matriarch of the family she had once been. Through machines that spoke for her, as she had lost control of all motor functions, an automated voice bemoaned how she felt, “…like I was living the life of a butterfly backwards, once independent and now confined to this cocoon which is my body.” Angie Bloomquist died later that year in 2015, before the bill passed.
Christy O’Donnel was another major proponent of the End of Life Options Act, after having been diagnosed with lung cancer. Although alive when the bill was passed, she too died before the law was ever enacted. But when asked what the the law meant to her, one word emanated about her lips: “Everything.”
How could death, something of morbidity, a word which associates itself with abysmal darkness, mean everything to these people? The act of suicide, commonly seen as something to be discouraged and prevented is being asked upon themselves, by themselves, almost as an act of benevolence, yet through their eyes it just may be. Who are we to deny that? Or would we be pushing the boundaries of what is moral and in turn allowing our own ethics to be corrupted? Whether or not you agree on the edict, the issue stands to continue a complex debate and may be contested again upon renewal of the law in 2026.