Bioethics News

Berkeley doctor opens right-to-die practice in California

By Jack Beaumont

Since the End of Life Option Act was put into place in the state of California on June 9, 2016, Dr. Lonny Shavelson has opened the first ever legal right-to-die practice in the state. This act, which authorizes adults who meet certain qualifications and have been determined by their physicians to be suffering from terminal diseases, allows citizens to make requests for a drug prescription that would end his or her life. Because of this, Dr. Shavelson is now legally capable to receive and treat patients seeking death as solution to their misery, provided they meet the prerequisites stated above.

Although Dr. Shavelson has said that a major goal in this practice is “to make this (prescription) not happen,” this claim has received much skepticism, including by disability rights advocate, Marilyn Golden. As Golden has stated, “It’s disturbing because it suggest that if you set up a practice focused on assisted suicide, some people will get assisted suicide.” Although Golden is skeptical about intentions like Shevalson’s in such a practice, she does believe that if he truly makes every effort to assist patients in ways other than death, he is doing right by his patients. “When somebody says to a physician that they want to talk about the End of Life Option Act and says ‘Can you give me a prescription that will end my life?’ I want them to tell me why,’’ said Shavelson. As the doctor went on to explain, this question allows for a conversation concerning one’s reasoning behind his or her wish to die, which, therefore, opens up the possibility of alternative treatments.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.