New California law allows terminally-ill to end own lives

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California's End of Life Option Act becomes law on Thursday, allowing people with terminal illnesses to take their own lives. (KABC)

A California law giving terminally ill patients the right to die takes effect this week.

One person who may take advantage of that new right is Navy and Army veteran Matt Fairchild. He was one of the people who fought hard for California's End of Life Option Act to become law - knowing he may need to exercise that option himself one day.

Since being diagnosed with melanoma in 2012, Fairchild has gone through multiple rounds of chemo and radiation, as well as surgeries and blood transfusions.

If and when Fairchild feels the time is right, he plans to end his life using doctor-prescribed drugs.

"I'm still fighting to stay alive as long as possible," Fairchild said. "When that stops and I go into hospice, my plan would be to immediately do the paperwork and get the medication to have on the shelf. Because I want that sense of calm."

He'll be able to start that process on Thursday when the new state law takes effect. The legislation makes California the fifth state in the country to allow terminally ill patients to seek life-ending drugs.

The this comes about 18 months after the high-profile death of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who moved from California to Oregon to end her life.

Maynard's family attended the legislative debate in California throughout 2015. Her mother, Debbie Ziegler, testified in committee hearings and carried a large picture of her daughter.

In a video recorded days before Maynard took life-ending drugs, she told California lawmakers that the terminally ill should not have to "leave their home and community for peace of mind, to escape suffering and to plan for a gentle death."

Fairchild expresses a similar sentiment.

"I look at it like you can pass naturally in your sleep, and that's beautiful," he said. "You can pass moderately uncomfortable but with your friends and family around you, and it's a beautiful thing and life ends, or you can die painful."

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