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Advocate Says California’s Aid-In-Dying Law Is Too Restrictive

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Advocate Says California’s Aid-In-Dying Law Is Too Restrictive
Advocate Says California’s Aid-In-Dying Law Is Too Restrictive GUEST: Faye Girsh, president/founder, Hemlock Society of San Diego

One San Diego woman who has been in the forefront of the right to die movement worked for decades to get the law enacted in California but she says it still does not go far enough. Joining me as president of the Hemlock Society of San Diego. Welcome to the program. Thank you. There are a number of anecdotal stories of family members craziness new law for allowing their loved ones dignified death. As a psychologist to do expects that reaction from people who are close to those who have chosen to end their lives. It is the reaction of people who can't use the law or can't find a doctor to help them use lot. Those reactions tear me apart. The reactions of people his family wanted them have a peaceful dignified death those are wonderful. They're just not that many of them. We did just hear that there is some resistance still among the medical community especially by doctors who do not want to become associated with the idea that you go to them to get these drugs to end your life. How do you react? I am not surprised. Oregon is in its 20th year there have been no -- abuses reported but it is still hard even in Oregon to find a sympathetic Doctor. I am not surprised it is the first year of law many doctors -- I would say most -- are reluctant to use a lot and the ones that do what I think are saints. I am so grateful when we hear about a doctor we can send somebody to. What did you think about it? I was on the board and to maybe three when a young? Will Ujek woman asked to refuse food and hydration. Now that is a perfectly legal thing to do. Many people do it but at that time it was not legal. You could refuse unwanted medical treatment but you cannot refuse food and hydration. ACLU took the case and I did a psychological evaluation to see that she was mentally competent and not depressed and that kind of thing she was very sharp she was a graduate of SDSU. Whitaker case and lost in the trial court and it wasn't until three years later when the appellate court said she could refuse food -- food and hydration that she tried to die that way for her it was way too painful. You know as I said it took years for this movement to get the option law passed in California. The long is very strict about who can use it and how it can be used. You think it is too strict. I think it is too restrictive. We are the only jurisdiction -- that is the United States that requires terminal illness of the criteria. It doesn't even make sense to me. Many people suffer excruciating agonies of their disease existential and physical for years and years chronic diseases. Things that are not fatal at the time and they would not be eligible for this law and then there is the whole area of dementia. This law is okay I am grateful that we have such a law but it certainly excludes a lot of people who should not be excluded. You think these drugs should be available to anybody who wants to end their life for any reason. It is a big debate in our movement. I do not think so. I and other people started another organization called final exit -- network that works with people who want to die that are not eligible under the California criteria are do not live in states that have a right to dialogue. Our criteria as in Europe and Canada is unbearable suffering and it does not have to be caused by a terminal illness. So I would prefer criteria like that I do not think six months is relevant. It is the criteria used by hospice and that is how it came to be incorporated in the law but six months to live does not tell you how much suffering is going on and for how long The law is still being challenged. A hearing is set for the middle of this month on the challenge that contends exactly right. Determining when somebody has six months or less to live is arbitrary and they claim that it opens the law up to abuse. So the people who are against this law basically is in your same problem with it as a challenge to its very existence. What is your reaction to that. The people that oppose the right of people to choose how they die to me is irrational and inhumane and cruel. And barbaric. In my opinion this slide is not go far enough and in their opinion there should be no such right of people to make this choice. I have no sympathy for that position at all. He came to the wrong person. You are in your 80s now. I am. Having small opinions about the right to die changed? They are more acute than ever because I am on the way especially in the area of dementia. All of these law that we have are for mentally competent people but the epidemic of dementia in the country and around the world is alarming and terrifying. I think all around us is an effort to extend the lot of people who are not confident any longer because it is such a terrifying situation that can absorb the last years of one's life's at tremendous expense financial and otherwise to caregivers. I have been speaking with Faye the president of the Hemlock Society of San Diego. Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

It has been a year since California's End of Life Options Act became law.

According to a survey conducted by the right to die group Compassion and Choices, 504 terminally-ill Californians have received the prescription drugs to end their lives since June 9, 2016.

But the group said the official state numbers will probably be much higher.

RELATED: Aid-In-Dying Law Comes To California

Faye Girsch, founder and president of the Hemlock Society of San Diego has been in the forefront of the right to die movement worked for decades to get the law enacted in California.

Girsh discussed why she believes California's End of Life Options Act does not go far enough Tuesday on Midday Edition.