(CNN) – Senator Dianne Feinstein, of California said, “You make the statement that there is no justification for having anything to do with the end of someone’s life, encouraging the end of life.”
Neil Gorsuch, Supreme Court nominee said, “And I’ve been there with my dad and others. At some point, you want to be left alone.” “Enough with the poking and the prodding. I want to go home and die in my own bed, in the arms of my family.”
It’s not an easy issue for anyone. Would you ever consider ending your life, with a doctor’s assistance?
Five states and Washington D.C. have legalized it, but Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is against it, at least according to his 2006 book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.”
In it, he makes the case that “all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”
Matt Fairchild couldn’t disagree more and, he is not just thinking about the issue, he is living it. In Matt’s case, Metastatic Melanoma spread everywhere, including his brain. Make no mistake, Matt has not given up.
In addition to all these medications, he has endured 38 rounds of Keytruda, the same drug that President Jimmy Carter credits for his remission. For Matt, like everything else, it didn’t work.
Matt said, “I’m open to miracles and extra special things, and great stuff, but it doesn’t mean you expect, or anything like that.”
So now he wants the ability to end his life peacefully, with dignity, on his own terms. In California, any adult like Matt can obtain a lethal dose of the sedative Secobarbital, as long as the patient has six months or less to live, has made two verbal requests and one written request to a doctor, is certified mentally competent, and can take the medications themselves.
No one else can do it for them, not even a spouse, like Ginger, Matt’s wife. “For right now, it’s mainly making Matt as comfortable as possible with all of the side effects from the treatments, and the disease.”
When Ginger and Matt first met, they had never considered the idea of death with dignity, physician-assisted suicide, aid-in-dying, but the former army soldier has been forced to learn more than he ever imagined.
Matt said, “If you have terminal cancer, when they say they fought it and lost the battle, of course they’re going to lose the battle, it’s terminal cancer, everybody’s going to die, so you’re not fighting it, you’re living with it, that’s it.”
When asked, “Do you feel like, ‘Why me?’ Is the sentiment anger?” Matt replied, “Never works.” “Because there’s a 4 year old girl that’s got cancer somewhere and she didn’t do anything to anybody.”
In 2014, Brittany Maynard brought the right-to-die movement back into the country’s consciousness. “I can’t even tell you the amount of relief it provides me to know that I don’t have to die the way that it’s been described to me that my brain tumor would take me on its own.”
Before Maynard’s death, the country was almost evenly split as to whether doctors should be legally allowed to assist terminally ill patients in committing suicide. Just a few years later, 68% in favor, 28% against.
Brittany’s husband, Dan Diaz, was by her side from the moment they first met, until Brittany took her last breath. “I’m doing okay. I still have days that are kind of somber. I miss her a lot. I think about her all the time.”
Dan remembers when Brittany found out she had cancer, stage four Glioblastoma, the most aggressive brain cancer there is.
Reporter: “There’s this balance, Dan, I think whether it’s the medical community or anybody, frankly, this idea that you want to have compassion, you want to make sure that you can not have people suffer, but also striking that balance with hope. Maybe just around the corner, there’s something that’s going to pop up that could be an answer.”
Dan Diaz: “Brittany and I, we talked about, ‘Okay, what if that miracle cure is just around the corner?’ What does that mean, and how do we get her to that point?” There is also, though, the reality that, “Well, we have to live in that day.”
After a seizure on November first, 2014, Brittany decided it would be her last day.
Diaz said, “Brittany fell asleep just like I’ve seen her do a thousand times before. In thirty minutes, the medication slows brain function including the parts that control breathing, so her respirations drop to a point where she passed away. That was the gentle passing that Brittany had, and that’s not the gentle passing that she would have had if the brain tumor would have continued to run its course.”
Opponents still cry foul, worried that laws like this will inevitably prey on the disabled, the poor, the uninsured, the people who will more likely choose death, rather than pay to fight. Again, none of this, of course, is easy.
Matt is suffering every day from his cancer, and struggling with the decision, a decision that hits close to home for Judge Gorsuch.
“Supposing you cannot handle the pain and you know that it’s irreconcilable,” ask Senator Feinstein.
Gorsuch replied, “Senator, the position I took on that in the book was anything necessary to alleviate pain would be appropriate and acceptable, even if it caused death… not intentionally, but knowingly. I drew a line between intent and knowingly. I’ve been there. I’ve been there.”