California is becoming ground zero in a new effort to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. Joined by doctors, a group of cancer patients filed a lawsuit to allow them to obtain prescription drugs in California to end their life over suffering through their remaining days.

The complaint is quick to point out only mentally competent and terminally ill patients would be able to ask for the cocktail of drugs.

Current California law makes it a crime for anyone to assist another committing suicide. This is where it gets murky for both sides. Proponents of the doctor-assisted suicide say that assisting the death of terminally ill patients is not the same as assisting suicide.

Kathryn Tucker, the executive director of the Disability Rights Legal Center laid out the case. “It is time for California to clarify that suffering, dying patients have the right to choose a peaceful death through aid in dying,” Tucker said. “Patients trapped in a dying process they find unbearable should be able to turn to their physicians and ask for medication they could consume to bring about a peaceful death.”

Alongside the lawsuit is current legislation in the California state legislature to allow for doctor-assisted suicide. The politics on it are unclear, and patients in immense suffering are not waiting around for a bill to be marked up. They consider it a right, and one they aim to take back.

During the press conference announcing the lawsuit, numerous cancer patients spoke out on their stories. Christie White was one of speakers, a 53-year old San Francisco resident in partial remission from cancer.

“But I’m not so blind as to ignore the very real possibility that my leukemia may return,” White said during a San Francisco news conference. “I do in fact expect that it will find its way to sneak back into my life, and for me at that point I will have very limited choices. I am asking the state of California to remove the legal barrier between my doctor and myself to help me achieve a peaceful and dignified death at the place and time of my choosing.”

To sit and argue against what she is asking is hard. We will not know the suffering she may have to go through. If she is terminal and essentially dying via torture, shouldn’t she be afforded a choice as a basic right?

I don’t think it’s too much to give a patient who gave cancer all they have and decides they will not let the disease dictate their life. Let them beat the disease’s final battle on their own terms.


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