California woman Jennifer Glass, 51, has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and when the time is right, seeks to die via physician-assisted suicide. Similar to Brittney Maynard, 29, who ended her life via a lethal dose of barbiturates prescribed to her by a doctor on Saturday, Nov. 1 after suffering from terminal brain cancer, Glass says she wishes to die in what she sees as a peaceful, dignified manner, on her own terms.
The difference is, Maynard was able to legally die that way because she was a resident of Portland, Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal. Physician-assisted suicide is illegal in California, which means no California doctor can knowingly and legally prescribe Glass anything for her to take with the intent to end her life. As a result, Glass can not legally die on her own terms, the way she wants to, unless she moves to Oregon, like Maynard, a former Bay Area resident, did.
Rather than move to a state that does allow for physician-assisted suicide, for now, Glass chooses to stay in California and campaign, via speaking engagements, blogging and appealing to local legislators, for California to legalize physician-assisted suicide. She supports Compassion & Choices, a national organization that is currently running a statewide campaign to legalize physician-assisted suicide in California.
A June 2014 Gallup poll suggests that seven in ten Americans support physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients that are of sound mind. The poll also suggests a link between church attendance and lack of support of physician-assisted suicide. Poll respondents were asked to choose from the following three options for how often they attend church: weekly, monthly and less often. As of 2014, 82 percent of the Gallup poll respondents who reported going to church less often were in favor of physician-assisted suicide. By contrast, only 48 percent of respondents who report weekly church attendance expressed support for physician-assisted suicide. Those who reported monthly church attendance fell somewhere in the middle, with 74 percent expressing support for physician-assisted suicide.
However, in the spite of the apparent overall majority support by the general public, physician-assisted suicide is only legal in four out of fifty states in America: Vermont, Oregon, Montana and Washington. In every other state, physician-assisted suicide remains illegal.
Those who oppose physician-assisted suicide do so for a variety of reasons. Some argue that doctors have a responsibility to do everything they can to keep their patients alive and that helping them die goes against the Hippocratic Oath all doctors take when becoming a licensed physician. Some fear that assisted suicide will put physically and mentally disabled patients in an even more vulnerable position than they are already in due to insurance companies now having incentive to want to terminate their lives in order to save money. Some are religious and argue that suicide is a sin. Some oppose it for a combination of any of the above reasons and others may oppose physician-assisted suicide for entirely different reasons not listed.
Glass, who was told she has a five percent chance of surviving the next five years after she was diagnosed with lung cancer in the fall of 2012, seeks to defeat those who oppose physician-assisted suicide, at least in the state of California. Glass, who is currently undergoing aggressive chemo and radiation in attempt to beat the cancer, says that if the cancer ultimately wins, she has no control over that, but if she is going to die, she at least wants control over how she will die.
By Lindsey Dow