California Governor Makes Assisted Suicide Legal

Senior caregivers working as professional caregivers can share many stories of seniors and their families who have struggled with when to embrace hospice care and accept the process of dying.  Aging gracefully comes with accepting mental, emotional and physical health realities that do not arrive wrapped in gracefulness.  

America's seniors receive either Medicare health care or Medicaid (for low-income seniors with few assets). If a senior has been diagnosed with a terminal condition with two years or less to live, they may accept hospice care.  Hospice care respects the dignity of the senior to maintain their comfort as they journey through their illness, accepting their body will eventually be unable to function without assistance and accepting that they do not want additional assistance to remain alive.

As advances in medicine and technology are allowing us to live longer, the new questions arising are focused on how do we want these longer years to be?  The recent best-selling book "Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande, a medical doctor (and excellent writer), focuses on how we should begin the conversations with our loved ones on how we want to age.

California's law joins the law in the state of Oregon to give their residents the right to "death with dignity".  This week Governor Jerry Brown stepped forward to sign the bill his state's assembly had approved.  The governor accepted the opposition of some in order to respect the right for mentally competent adults who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness with six months or less to live to have the choice to accept lethal prescriptions.

Hospice caregivers who have been with someone dying can share stories of hearing the death rattle noises coming from a terminal patient as they lose their ability to swallow.  Doctors, nurses and hospice professionals who support the death with dignity movement bring an approach to care that supports caring for someone as they are dying by providing comfort, just as we try to provide comfort when caring for those who will recover from an illness.

Barbara Coombs Lee, a nurse who serves as the president of Compassion & Choices, shares the story of Brittany Maynard, who through her terminal cancer diagnosis stepped up to be the force behind the movement to change the laws in California to allow for residents to choose to die with dignity.  She wanted her family caregivers to know that she had planned ahead for a dignified death.

Brittany's video had 100 million views.  You can learn more about Compassion & Choices initiative to support death with dignity in additional states in the U.S.A. 

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