East Bay Resident Brittany Maynard’s Legacy, Death with Dignity Law, Tabled in California

East Bay Resident Brittany Maynard’s Legacy, Death with Dignity Law, Tabled in California

End-of-life documents are an important part of California Document Preparers’ services, and our clients often comment on related events and news stories. Last fall, we wrote a blog about the tragedy of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old woman from Walnut Creek who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and moved to Oregon so she could avail herself of that state’s Death with Dignity Act.

After Maynard’s death, her family lobbied the California legislation to pass a physician-assisted suicide bill, and the Senate responded by passing the End of Life Option Act 23-14. The bill was tabled, however, on July 7, 2015, and will not become law during this session of the legislature.

Belgium’s euthanasia law for severely depressed has created controversy

Besides Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont have legalized physician-assisted suicide. Canada, Australia, Denmark, Switzerland and Belgium are among countries that have passed euthanasia legislation. A recent article in the New Yorker focuses on Belgium’s controversial law passed in 2002 that permits euthanasia for patients with an incurable illness causing unbearable physical or mental suffering—including depression.

A Belgium woman profiled in this article suffered from depression for most of her life and had been under the care of a psychiatrist for more than 30 years. She was in her 50s when her last long-term relationship ended, and she was never able to right herself after this breakup. She became estranged from her two grown children and increasingly withdrew from life, unable to find enjoyment from the things that once brought pleasure.

Euthanasia request carried out without family’s knowledge

She was 63 when she began seeing Dr. Wim Distelmans, a proponent of the law, and who, since its passage, has euthanized more than 100 patients. Four months after this woman began seeing Distelmans, she filed a euthanasia request and sent an email to her children informing them of this fact. Her daughter respected her request; her son, busy with his own life and family and aware that his mother had threatened suicide on other occasions, ignored it. Three months after the request, the son received a message in the past tense from his mother. The euthanasia request had been carried out and his mother was dead.

Son questions doctor’s ethics

The son is now racked by guilt and anger. He has contacted the media, Distelmans and the other doctors who were involved in his mother’s decision to die. He accused Distelmans of killing his mother, though the doctor acted well within the constraints of the law. He questions the ethics of a severely depressed person’s being able to make a life or death decision; he believes that next of kin should be notified, raising the advisability of an intervention. There are Belgian doctors and academics who publicly question the law, and the suicide rate in this country is the second highest in Western Europe.

The topic of physician-assisted suicides raises both moral and legal issues

People have strong feelings on both sides of the issue, and we likely have not seen the end of California’s controversial bill—a poll showed that 69 percent of Californians overall and 70 percent of Latinos supported the bill.

If creating a Living Trust is on your to-do list, we encourage you to come in to one of our California Document Preparers offices to get started. Our comprehensive Trust package includes a Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive. We also provide a section for listing the contact information for healthcare providers, insurance agents and other people who provide critical services.