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Mentally Ill Patients in California Can Choose to Die By Assisted Suicide

( [email protected] ) Oct 28, 2016 09:38 AM EDT
California law gives mentally ill patients who are suffering from a terminal sickness the option to die by assisted suicide.
A doctor holds the hand of a patient in a hospital in Peoria, Illinois.

Reuters/Jim Young

California law gives mentally ill patients who are suffering from a terminal sickness the option to die by assisted suicide.

This applies to those who were ordered by a court to be hospitalized for psychiatric reasons but were terminally sick and were declared fit to make decisions, according to an article from Life News.

A court can order mentally ill patients to be hospitalized if there is evidence that they are dangerous, either to others or to themselves. However, according to a regulation in the End of Life Option Act, a mentally ill, suicidal patient with a terminal disease can petition the court to be released for assisted suicide as long as that patient is proven able to decide for himself or herself.

Bioethics attorney and author Wesley J. Smith, who wrote the article, said the regulation is “nuts” and leaves the patients to fulfill “their darkest impulses.”

“If a suicidal patient requests to be released to commit suicide but isn’t terminally ill, he will be refused if he is still considered a mortal danger to himself. But if the same patient has terminal cancer, he must be released in order to commit suicide,” Wesley wrote. “That’s not only nuts, but the state is abandoning the terminally ill with mental illnesses to their darkest impulses.”

In cases where the court does not allow the patient to be released, the state is mandated to transport that patient to the nearest facility that provides assisted suicide. And if there is no such facility nearby, the assisted suicide must be carried out in the hospital where the patient is being held.

“My state, which may soon do away with the death penalty, specifically will require government participation and facilitation of the suicides of mentally ill people if they have been diagnosed with a terminal illness,” Wesley wrote. “This so-called ‘death with dignity’ movement is driving us out of our collective minds.”

The End of Life Option Act, a landmark legislation that legalized assisted suicide for people with terminal disease, took effect in June 9.

"It's a historic achievement for California, and for a limited universe of people dealing with a terminal illness," Sen. Bill Monning said, according to NPR. "It could indeed be a transformative way of giving them the option of a compassionate end-of-life process."

Some groups have voiced their opposition against the legislation. Citing an example by which the law can be abused, Marilyn Golden from the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund said a patient suffering from depression and would want to die could simply look for doctors who would allow the lethal prescription, even if other doctors turn that person down for medical reasons.

"We are looking ahead at measures to protect people from abuse and to explore and inform doctors, nurses and pharmacists that they don't have to participate,” Golden said.

Tags : assisted suicide, California, California assisted suicide, euthanasia, Mental Illness, Suicide, depression, End of Life Option Act, California assisted suicide law, California assisted suicide for mentally ill, dying with dignity, Sen. Bill Monning, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Marilyn Golden, Wesley J. Smith, bioethics