Medicine: The Right to Die

It has become a profoundly perplexing question for doctors and, indeed, all of society: Should heroic measures—respirators and other marvels of modern medical technology—be used to prolong the lives of the dying who no longer want to live? Last week California gave its answer. It became the first state to legalize the right of the terminally ill to decree their own deaths.

Signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, an ex-Jesuit seminarian, after weeks of personal agonizing, the California bill implicitly recognizes the validity of "living wills." Long a subject of debate, these...