California's assisted suicide law offers new option for terminal patients

Matt Fairchild, 46, has advanced stage melanoma that has spread to his brain and his bones.

Story highlights

  • California is the fifth state to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with prescriptions from their doctors
  • The law takes effect in June
  • Medical groups and others raise awareness to ensure all terminally ill patients will have access to it

BurbankMatt Fairchild, 46, is in near constant pain. Advanced melanoma has spread to his brain and bones. He takes 26 medications a day and rarely leaves his house except to go to doctors' appointments.

Fairchild, a retired army sergeant, refuses to say he is fighting a battle against cancer, because he knows it's one he will lose. He's not sure how long he has to live, but he knows this: he doesn't want to spend his last days in agony.
In October, California became the fifth state to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with prescriptions from their doctors after months of contentious debate. Religious groups and disability rights activists fought against the law and tried unsuccessfully to get a referendum on the ballot to overturn it.
    Late last week the bill's authors announced that the aid-in-dying law would take effect June 9.
    Fairchild said he feels calmer knowing the law will become effective in just a few months. When it's time, he said, having a prescription will enable him to say goodbye to family and die in his sleep instead of suffering through intense pain, nausea or seizures.
    What remains unsaid about assisted suicide