tv America Tonight Al Jazeera April 9, 2016 3:30am-4:01am EDT
they ask if children are not nepali's. the kroupd cheer on all the news, of course, on our website. there it is on your screen. the address aljazeera.com crowd all the news, of course, on our website. there it is on your screen. the address aljazeera.com britney, there wasn't a cure or anything that would change the fact that she would die. the manner in which she died, that's what he sh control over. >> inside the debate in california - that could ripple across the nation. should medically assisted suicide be legalized. >> we cannot legislation morality. this is a matter of personal choice. thanks for joining us, i'm
adam may with this report. tonight we tackle a subject that we all face - death. if you think about how you want to die, you might say peacefully in your sleep or surrounded by friends or family. well, what g you could plan that and avoid a drawn-out sometimes painful death. because of diseases or cancers. the debate over medically assisted suicide is rapidly heating up, and soon it could be a real option for millions more americans. for those on the front lines of this battle. all eyes are on california, that's where one husband made a promise to britney. >> we cannot legislate morality, this is a matter of choice. >> reporter: california lawmakers debate becoming the next state to legalize medically assisted suf. one man watching knows the issue as well as anyone? >> the mainstay of killing
through physician assisted suicide is a drug called pentobarbital. it works by suffocating victims. >> all the arguments they bring up. it's a simply slope. it's depressed. this is an act of desperation, a cry for help. there'll be coerce, abuses. the same arguments brought up 20 years ago. here we are, 20 years later, and after it being in practice in argon for 17 years, there's not concerns. >> dan was married to britney minard. the california woman suffering from terminal brain cancer, who openly lived out her final days advocating for the right to die. >> i still have enough joy and i laugh and smile with my family and friends. it doesn't seem like the right
time. it will come, i feel myself getting sicker. it is happening each week. >> the couple moved to oregon, where doctors can legally prescribe lethal medication. >> my husband is a lovely man. i understand everyone needs to grieve. but i want him to be happy. >> britney ended her life in november 2014. >> people need to thing through this themselves. what is worth, a peaceful passing or being tortured to death. death is imminent. there wasn't a cure. the manner in which she died. over. >> how do you think britney would. how do you think she'd describe her end of life experience. >> that's something we talked about in the months and weeks
leading up to it. there's fear. death is a topic no one wants to talk about. britney was brave enough, wise enough to deal with the reality that the tumor. it's not stopping. the 29-year-old was the face of compassionate choices, an organization pushing states to legalize the option of physician assistance and dying. the controversial end of life choice is authorised in five states. since minard's death, two dozen additional states, and the district of columbia have taken up the issue. diaz says he made a promise to britney to continue the fight. >> it's amazing that, you know, one person with one voice can make a difference. however, i'd say that the fact that it's getting attention and support, that's reflective of the attitudes of the general
public. nationwide, 74% are actually in favour of the individual being in control of their own dying process. it's a matter of time. state by state, we'll fight the battles to get this option in the books the words used in the debate make a difference. a recent gallop poll revealed 70% of americans gafr allowing doctors -- favour allowing doctors to end life using painless means. when you call it assisted 51%. >> by not calling it suicide achieve. >> what they get is the ability to gloss over hard realities about what is being proposed. erron is a specialist in psychiatry and medical ethics. when they poll people and say are you in favour of physician assisted suicide, most say no. >> the california medical
association long against the idea recently reduced its stance to neutral. it's controversial with many doctors. this is contrary to a long tradition in medicine, of ethics going back to the hippocratic oath, principles of ethics - physicians use knowledge and skills for the purposes of health and healing. >> have you worked with patients contemplating ending their life because of medical pain. i have worked with patients that said things offhand along the lines that they can't go on. there's something psychologically or in terms of their social support or medically that we need to do a better job to address. once we do that, this desire to die issues. suicide is a distress signal, it's
a fry for help as for dan diaz, he says he's only begun to fight. britney. >> why are you still out there on the front fighting for the californians. >> as tamping as this -- taxing as this legislative effort is, i think for me it's somewhat therapeutic. and knowing that i'm keeping my promise so britney, i think that that's - you know,it helps me good. >> beyond california, there's 44 other states that don't have the legislation, and so my efforts, you know, will continue. >> did you wish that she would have given you more time? >> well, i always wish that she's still here. i mean, i look around, every time i see a photo of her i think to myself, you know, that's my baby. i...
..man, the deal was we were supposed to be together forever. that was the deal. that's why we got married. there's all of that. there's frustration, anger. my wife took control over her dying process. way. >> a peaceful passing surrounded by her loved ones. we should be so lucky. >> well the california house shelved the bill for 2015. it was close to becoming law. advocates are making plans for 2016. they are pushing a deal and a ballot initiative. i want to take a moment to talk about the language used in the debate. both sides don't like certain terms, we decided to use the term medically assisted suicide, that's the preferred wording, according to the style guide, a blueprint for journalists. die.
every last breath. >> i'm not afraid to die, we are all dying, most are afraid to talk about dath. for me it's part of my life to talk about death. >> stephanie packer's body is not nearly as strong as her spirit. a mother of four young children, she is dying from multiple ailments, every day with her family is a gift. >> the actually dying, i'm not afraid of that. when it happens, it happens. i hope it's later rather than suner. my fear is for what happens for
my kids, when they are hurt, who will stay up and worry about them. that's what a mum does, you know. i do. that's my job. >> packer joined the fight against sb 128, also called the end of life bill. it would allow doctors to write terminally ill patients a prescription for lethal medication. packer would meet the criteria. >> i have a primary condition, i have lupus, which could attack other organs, i have trigeminal mallal ga, known as the suicide disease. 55% of these patients kill themselves within the first two years of having the disease. >> reporter: why is that? >> it is known as the most excruciatingly painful continue in medical practice. >> reporter: are you afraid of the pain? >> very much, as there's nothing
i can do. the medicine doesn't help. you have to hold your breath. >> reporter: how much longer do you think you have? >> no idea. >> reporter: medical records show that she has been given three years to live, three years ago. she's running out of the treatment options for this devout catholic ending her life with a pill is unthinkable. are you religiously motivated in this. is it your primary reason. >> it's my reason, not my only reason. bill. >> proopinionents say it's a -- proponents says it's a choice pill, no doctor will make you take the pill, no insurance company can force you to do it. >> no, but they can take away
options for you. to save money? >> absolutely. end of life care is the most expensive care out there. >> like many against medical aid of dying. packer is alarmed by the case of barbara wagner in 2008. the lung patient was denied a $4,000 a month cancer drug, and, instead, the state health plan offered an inexpensive prescription to end her life in oregon this law has been in effect for two decades. we have a lot of data and a lot of experience about how it worked in oregon. >> reporter: tony is the director of compassion and choices california. the main group lobbying in favour of sb 128. >> there has not been significant problems in oregon. propon events talk about 6 or 7 cases over and over.
a lot of them look more closely. intended. >> reporter: how does religion play into the debate. >> if your religion tells you you shouldn't do in and it's wrong, i would not want you to choose the option. that would go against your deeply held personal values. i think that works both ways. >> the issue here is that the government should not be in the business of chooses another. choice. >> part of it is i heard it over and over is not whether you taking or not, knowing that the option is there, that it allows you to live more fully. >> stephanie's choice is different.
she wants to honer her catholic faith. she is researching every option, holdin holding out hope for a discovery to keep her alive. >> >> reporter: how do you envision her final moments. >> i don't know. i don't want the kids to watch me die. i don't have the answers. as humans, that's where we fault. not having control. >> we are talking about your end of life, kids, what the future will be like without you in it. and yet here you
are. why? >> this $85 prescription will be some people's only option if something like this passes. everyone needs to read what is in the bill. and not just come to the table and say it's a choice, because this is bad medicine. fearing a future. she is unlikely to wit innocence as she fights for every last breath many disability rights groups are opposed, concerned that it could give up the fight to live or lead to pressure by family members to end life. >> next, our special report continues, we need a woman suing to end her life, unwilling to
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you have a lot to say, kid. >> reporter: at 47 her life was turned upside down. the single mother in sacramento was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. how severe was the diagnosis? >> nobody really said anything until i went in to the colon surgeon and said i have a 15-year-old son and need to know what i'm dealing with. and he said he'd give me no more than 18 months to live. it was pretty severe. >> reporter: do you mind showing me the scarring? >> it's fine. >> reporter: the treatment was excruciating and left her scarred from numerous surgeries. her teenage son stayed by her side. when she got severely ill from chemotherapy. >> knowing my son has been and would have been the most impacted by this is by far the worse part.
death, for the person dying, is over, but leaving a 15-year-old kid on his own. the idea is unimaginable. >> reporter: for the last four years she has been beating the odds. since the latest treatment in spring, she doesn't know if the cancer is growing or not. this time she's taking an unusual course of action. suing for the right to legally end her life if and when she says the time is right. >> i don't have any faith in palliative care. after a surgery my lungs started filling up with fluid. and they went to put a drain in my lungs. and i was literally in surgery knocked out, and i was screaming in pain. and that is how i - i don't want to end my life that way, and i absolutely don't want my son to see me that way.
i don't want my final hell . the final day, i want them as happy as possible. i want to live my life until, you know, until it's - until the bad outweighs the good. in the lawsuit, she and three others claim they have a right to have a physician aid them in death and prescribe life-ending medication. >> sp128 is about how we die in california, not an easy conversation to have. >> she supports california's sb 128, the end of life bill currently making its way through the state legislature. we saw her praying during a vote in the senate. if passed, california would become the sixth, and by far the largest state to offer an end option to terminally ill patients. >> what's the difference between the practice of doctors withholding food, withholding
nutrition and water, and this? >> torture. i mean, the only difference that i can see is i get to suffer. and that's a pretty horrific thing. that's the only difference. >> what is wrong with the law proposed in california. >> this is a band-aid solution, that over the long term will make matters worse. >> doctor erin is a medical ethicist at u.c. irvine, and staunch opponent to assisted suicide. proponents say there are safeguards in place. it's not misused. >> we know in oregon, 6% of patients dying of assisted suicide ever were referred to psychiatric assessment. only 13% had palliative care referral to have a conversation with an expert on end of life
before getting a prescription for the deadly drug. >> reporter: oregon's public health division said the concerns have not become a reality. oregon was the first state to pass a death with dignity law. that was back in 1997. since then 850 people ended their lives. mostly cancer patients with good medical care, like walner. >> i don't know any terminal patient that wants to die. i think we don't want to drag our death out. we are going to die. if it comes to that point where there's no more that i can do, my body is failing, organs are shutting down, all that is left is die. and it can be slow and painful or under my terms. this man, who is influenced by his catholic faith, warps of a slippery slope. >> if this is a benefit to someone that can make the request. physicians would say it can be
of benefit to a person that can not make the request. we move logically from voluntary assisted suicide to terminally ill patients and other problems, to nonvoluntary euthanasia for patients who are incapacitated, can't speak for themselves, and the doctor or the hospital deems it appropriate to go ahead and end his life. >> reporter: what do you say to the opposition. >> with the physicians, i would say it's my choice to have treatment, it's my choice to stop treatment. if it's a religious opposition, the god that i'm believing in does not want me to suffer, what i believe in is love, hope and prayer, and companionship and benevolence, not about suffering. >> reporter: so why the fresh produce? >> i think it probably supports my health and healing.
>> wallner is fighting to extend her life. weekly trips to a farmer's market, fuelling her body with organic foods, hoping it buys her extra time. if this does not become law in california, what will you do? >> there are medications. you know, i walk out of the hospital when i have a procedure with untold amounts of medication. so i really, honestly, i don't know what i would do. but i'm not going to - it won't be a slow painful death. >> reporter: you are going to control it if you can. >> yes. >> absolutely. you can read more about the women featured in these reports on the website aljazeera.com/americatonight. you can join the debate on facebook or twitter. thanks for watching this "america tonight" special report.
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