Do You Support the Right to Die?

Coffee Talk is a regular feature of the Contra Costa Lawyer magazine. We ask a short question related to an upcoming theme and responses are then published in the Contra Costa Lawyer magazine. Thank you to the following members who responded.

Don’t Support the “Right to Die”

I am not sure if a person who attempts to commit suicide but is unsuccessful, can be prosecuted for that act as a crime or an attempt to commit a crime.  As such, what is being presented as a “Right to Die Law” is a system to facilitate people to intentionally die at least partially by their own hand.  A normal response to suicide is mental health care. Someone decided that they (or the government) can define when intentionally causing your own death is a rational act.  Potential problems are too numerous to allow this – we want to end the death sentence because some receive it wrongly – how many more will die under California’s Right to Die law and never be reviewed or found to die wrongly – in one or more of the ways that could be interpreted.  All or many of the people that jump from the Golden Gate Bridge and survived reportedly say they regretted taking that jump immediately after letting gravity take over.  By intention or error, this is just beyond our limited scope as humans and as a society.

Doug Hartsough 
Collection Attorney


I support the Right to Die, so long as the battery of built-in protections for the patient are painstakingly followed to the letter and it is absolutely certain that the patient, not his or her family, made the choice while still having a full understanding of that choice.

-Catherine E. Cutler


Yes, I do support this.

I have been in practice nearly 25 years, a good portion of it involves defense of health care providers, both individual and institutional. I have also been a registered nurse for more than 46 years, practicing in various health care venues for the first 19 years. as a nurse, I have cared for critically ill patients and terminally ill patients, as well as provided support to their families and loved ones. If I haven’t seen it all, I certainly have seen and experienced a lot, some of it not pretty and much of it painful to contemplate even decades later.

One of our greatest liberties as human beings is freedom from arbitrary governmental interference.

By constitutional and statutory law, as California residents, we have the right to medical privacy, that is to make our own medical decisions within the privacy of the patient-physician relationship. We have the freedom and protection to confer privately with our treatment providers regarding the most intimate secrets of our bodies and life issue. We can select among the treatment options tendered to us for a specific reason; we can reject any or all treatment options suggested. We can seek elective procedures to improve our vision, our chewing or speaking ability, our appearance or ability to better function with a limb or organ affected by injury or disease. We have right to seek aid in conception, prevention of conception and termination of pregnancy, as well as aid for erectile dysfunction, among other things

There is no reason for California citizens to be denied by the government the liberty and right to participate in choosing the time and manner of death, as it relates to relief from intractable pain and/or suffering. These decisions are matters of patient privacy and dignity. Planning for this care should be readily available to all patients who seek medical advice on the topic. Like all other medical care, the involved health care providers should be guided by the applicable standard of care in giving advice and implementing all treatment plans agreed upon between patient and physician.

Deborah L. Phillips, RN, BA, JD