Bloomberg Business Week endorses amendments to California’s MAID law
In a reprise of an earlier article chronicling the journalist’s efforts to help her father avail himself of Maine’s brand-new MAID law published Feb 1, 2021, Business Week Bloomberg reporter Esme E. Deprez explains the Hobson’s choice which Sandy Morris, 55, faces as ALS, a degenerative neurological illness, exerts its cruel toll. Journalist Deprez had poignantly described her own father’s struggle with the pitiless amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (a/k/a Lou Gehrig’s disease), an incurable neurodegenerative disease which robs its victims of motor control and leaves them increasingly paralyzed. Deprez wrote of her gratitude that Maine had recently enacted a Medical Aid in Dying law, allowing her father a painless exit by the self ingestion of a lethal medication.
Deprez chose to follow up on her story by flying to California to meet a pioneer in the struggle for End of Life autonomy facing an impossible quandary: what to do when the disease itself will likely impede the patient’s ability to avail herself of the law intended to alleviate her end of life suffering. Sandy Morris, a mother of 3, retired 28-year veteran of Hewlett Packard, resident of Sierraville CA “is warm and intense, with creamy skin, curly light brown hair and a dark sense of humor.’ But she now has been reduced to near physical helplessness in a motorized wheelchair, a far cry from her prior exuberance of horse back riding, trail running and cross country skiing.
Sandy’s fight is at the cutting edge of what California’s MAID law allows. As in every state in the county where MAID is allowed, euthanasia remains a criminal act: a doctor, even acting at the patient’s request, may not administer the lethal dose. Only the patient may self administer. But what happens to a terminally ill patient with ALS, or advanced Parkinson’s who physically cannot self administer. Was the law really intended to exclude those persons? Should a patient knowing that their ALS is aggressively advancing be forced to take the drug before their emotional time of readiness just to make sure they don’t end up incapacitated and be forced to die of asphyxiation.
To challenge just that predicament, Sandy has joined forces with Dr Lonny Shavelson, a California-based pioneer clinician whose practice now deals exclusively with MAID patients. They have filed a challenge under the ADA alleging that the California law as constructed works an illegal disadvantage to patients willing to avail themselves of MAID but in physical need of a 3rd-part administration. That challenge was rejected in Federal District Court by Judge Vince Chhabria who sided with California AG Rob Bonta’s arguments that allowing euthanasia in this case would run afoul of the legislative intentions. However the case is being appealed.
This dilemma only exists in the United States. In every other country where MAID has been passed, a provision for euthanasia is also allowed… and by far preferred by patients. In some instances overwhelmingly. Polls in the US indicate patients would also prefer to have a physician apply the medicine rather than be forced to self administer. However, in America, euthanasia remains taboo. Dr Shavelson’s efforts to open an exception to the iron-clad rule will likely NOT draw plaudits from Compassion and Choices or Death with Dignity National Center because of fear of a huge push back if not backlash. And yet who can argue with the logic and the supreme unfairness of Sandy’s situation and our collective druthers that she should be able to spend as long on earth with her husband Joe and her 3 children as the disease will allow before the suffering becomes overwhelming.