If your were a Roman citizen, right about the same time Jesus was feeding the poor, all you had to do to commit suicide was to petition the Senate. More often than not they would give you some hemlock free of charge.

How’s that for national healthcare?

Now it wasn’t all “To Be Or Not To Be.” It was illegal to kill yourself if you were awaiting trial, or if you were a soldier, or of course, if you were a slave. Breaking any one of those rules guarantees that all of your property would go to the state. Death taxes indeed, but suicide was not considered the abomination that it is today, and in some cases, considered honorable. Nobody would’ve dismissed Marc Antony for killing himself except for the fact that he did it over a woman.

Oh, the humanity.

In the fifth century, Christians started getting serious about suicide because it was getting difficult to figure out who was a martyr and who was crazy. They decreed suicide a sin, but not a big one; a “Gee, you really shouldn’t that.” kind of sin.

They got really serious about it in the 17th century making suicide an unforgivable sin. This lead to . . . and I kid you not . . . a massive increase in baby killing.

The theory was that murder is punishable by death, murder is forgivable in confession, and babies go to heaven anyway.

Kill a baby. Get sentenced to death. Confess your sins. Be executed. Go to Heaven. Play with Baby. Sounds crazy, yet the Koran is vehemently against both murder and suicide and I write this on the Fourteenth Anniversary of 9/11.

This same week, the California State Legislature has voted in favor of the “End of Life Option Act.” The law would allow doctors to prescribe lethal medications to patients who have received a diagnosis of six months or less to live and wish to die peacefully in their homes rather than painfully in a sterile hospice ward.

Governor Jerry Brown has until Sept. 28th to approve the bill or it will automatically become law in January. If that happens California will be the fifth state with such a law following Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana.

The bill, modeled identically after Oregon’s, would allow doctors to prescribe lethal medication to patients only after two separate doctors have agreed on the diagnosis, two verbal requests for the drugs have been made, plus a written request, and then a final approval from a judge.

For comparison, you can buy a shotgun at Walmart in under fifteen minutes, and Dick Cheney still needs a hunting buddy.

The law was precariously passed, having been voted down earlier in the year, and then re-proposed with a different legislative body. It passed the Assembly 43-33 and then passed in the State Senate 23-14.

Opposition to the bill and bills like it have come from two fronts. Obviously there is the religious argument, though a quick skim through history will prove religion’s moral superiority invalid. And there is also opposition from the medical lobby, which is far more interesting.

The California Medical Association only reversed it’s opposition this year, while the British Medical Association helped stop a bill in the United Kingdom from passing this very week.

74% of British Members of Parliament voted against it even though 82% of the British people support such a law. Quite a disparity.

The disparity among medical practitioners is also twofold. The majority of oncologists who are in charge of delivering care for those last six months, oppose Right to Die legislation, while the majority of psychologists are for it. Despite the suspicion that my psychiatrist is trying to kill me, it’s obvious that oncologists who have sacrificed their lives to fighting cancer would prefer to continue the fight and do their best to alleviate pain with as many opiates as possible.

As the saying goes: You can check out any time you like . . . but you can never leave.

The Right to Die is a personal circumstantial question. In the ten years since Oregon passed it’s own law 1,327 patients have been prescribed lethal medication, while only 859 have taken the drugs to end their lives. The argument that Right to Die Laws might lead to “Responsibility to Die” or that families will put pressure on their loved ones to commit suicide to reduce medical costs has proven unfounded.

The Hippocratic Oath and it’s modern equivalent has been made by doctors for nearly 2500 years. In it’s simplest form it says “Do No Harm.” There’s no harm in fighting for every last breath. There’s no harm in calling it a day.

We’re all going to die . . . all of us . . . and all of us deserve to die in any manner we see fit.

There’s plenty of room at The Hospice California, but maybe some of us would prefer to go gently into that goodnight. You might not agree with it . . . for whatever reason . . . but it’s not your choice to make.

Photo By Walleigh (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons