The ‘acceptable’ way to die? | TheUnion.com

The ‘acceptable’ way to die?

In the June 8 issue of The Union there appeared an obituary dedicated to the life of Bill Walker.

It describes a difficult early life and later on one of homelessness and alcohol abuse but eventual recovery and 24 years of being clean and sober. He left this life with many friends and a loving family.

But his leaving that is the sad story. After three years of suffering with cancer and being tube-fed, he asked for the "death pill" and was told that Catholic-backed Dignity Health Hospital prevented its dispensation and that the only way for him to die in an "acceptable manner" was to stop being tube-fed. So in compliance he went for 30 days with no feedings — then the water was withdrawn and he lasted another eight days.

Think of it — lying there with end-stage cancer with no sustenance, drifting in and out of consciousness for 38 days, while his family sat by. Because others thought this was the "acceptable" way to die. Their sense of morality imposed on a dying man.

After years of trying, California passed the End-Of-Life-Option act in 2015 which, with many safeguards, allows a patient with less than six months to live, to obtain a doctor's prescription to end their life mercifully, in minutes, by going to sleep. This law was overturned several months ago by a Riverside court, but the ruling is being challenged by the state. Similar laws are now in effect in eight other states.

William Steele

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