California Assisted Suicide Bill Dies, Democrats Can’t Find Enough Votes in Assembly

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 7, 2015   |   3:57PM   |   Sacramento, CA

In a huge victory for pro-life advocates in California, the bill the state Senate passed to make the state the next to legalize assisted suicide has died. SB 128 is reportedly off the table for the rest of the year after Democrats had trouble finding enough votes in a state Assembly committee to move the bill ahead.

SB 128 is not expected to move forward any more this year some sources inform LifeNews, though Democrats are expected to file the legislation again next year — prompting yet another battle to protect seniors, the terminally ill and disabled.

Brian Johnston of the California Pro-Life Council confirmed for LifeNews that the bill is dead for this legislative session.

“Senator Wolk’s office confirms they have pulled the bill from Assembly Health. Will it be a 2-year bill.. will they put their chips on court action? On an initiative?” Johnston asked.

The pro-life advocate credited looming questions surrounding the assisted suicide death of Brittany Maynard as one of the reasons the bill stalled.

“If the Death with Dignity bill, SB128, requires a consistent request, 15 days apart, then why was Brittany Maynard killed the day after she told the world she had changed her mind and wanted to live?” Johnston asked. “We never found out why, just hours later, she was killed anyways, and we must presume, it was at her own hand. Who ‘counseled her? What was the nature of the counseling? Did she feel media pressure to be ‘back on schedule’? Did she feel even subtle pressure from those around her to, ‘just get it over with’?”

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“These questions have been wreaking havoc inside the death-advocates’ camp. Our recent efforts have re-enforced their methods, and what actually works to stop them,” he continued.

Johnston told LifeNews the bill died despite last-minute effort by the media and euthanasia activists to prop it up.

“In the past 2 weeks, pop-media have been feverishly trying to re-frame the debate as being about religion, and the involvement of the Catholic Church. Hemlock Society founder, Derek Humphrey, upon his arrival in California in 1985, set the template for how euthanasia advocates would typically frame opposing arguments: “We are no longer dependent on priests and prelates as in olden times, in a democracy we are free to follow our better judgment.”

He said pro-life groups and disability rights advocates will have to face the fight to legalize assisted suicide again next year.

Johnston concluded: “This second postponement of the Assembly Health Committee hearing on SB 128 is only a brief respite. This may now become a 2-year bill. We know that the death promoters are committed to use every avenue they can, the media, the courts, the legislature.   We know they will still bring the bill back to Assembly Health.  They will be back.”

The bill sputtered after six Latino Democrats on the important state Assembly committee balked at the bill. Their reservations came after Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez spoke out fervently against the bill last week. Archbishop Gomez said, “The compassion that doctor-assisted suicide offers is hollow. And this legislation has dangerous implications for our state, especially for the poor and vulnerable.”

He added: “There is no denying that in California and nationwide we face a public health crisis in the way we treat patients who are terminally ill and at the end of life. But the answer to fear and a broken system is to fix the system and address the fears. It is not to kill the one who is afraid and suffering.”

“The debate over doctor-assisted suicide is a distraction that is preventing us from confronting the real issues that we face in public health,” citing Americans’ longer lives and the growing incidence of such age-related illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” he continued.

State Sen. Bob Huff, a Republican who is the minority leader in the State Senate, talked about the bill failing:

A high-profile bill that recently passed out of the state Senate without much trouble is facing a much tougher road in the Assembly.

Senate Bill 128 would legalize physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients in California. Supporters call it the Death with Dignity Act.

In reality, however, the bill should be known as the “Aid in Killing” act. We are asking our health care professionals — the people we hire to care for us and cure us — to now prescribe drugs that will cause our death.

Although I opposed this measure on the Senate floor, and I was not alone in my opposition, 23 others did vote in favor of it, which was enough to send it to the Assembly. And that’s where the trouble started.

The two authors of SB 128 have canceled a vote on the bill in the Assembly Health Committee because there is currently not enough support. The sponsors of SB 128 might be hoping that if they delay the vote long enough, the passage of time may change the minds of some committee members.

Where is the opposition coming from? Hundreds of organizations and citizens are vehemently opposed to physician-assisted suicide. This includes the American Medical Association and the physicians who treat cancer patients: oncologists.

These are the doctors that deal with dying more than anybody. They deal with death on a regular basis. They are the ones who have to explain to the patient or family that they have a terminal illness. Nobody wants to hear this. It’s never taken well. People don’t rejoice when they are told they are going to die.

A statement from both the Association of Northern California Oncologists and the Medical Oncology Association of Southern California sums up their opposition: “For many practicing physicians, end of life issues are purely theoretical. For oncologists, it is an everyday part of their practice to assist the patient in a comfortable death … an act that directly causes the patient’s death’ is contrary to the role of the physician.”

As LifeNews previously reported, the California Senate passed the bill on June 4th with a 23-14 vote and it’s currently awaiting state assembly consideration. If passed, California’s assisted suicide bill would require doctors to lie about the cause of death in assisted suicide. A board member from the Disabilities Rights Education & Defense Fund Inc., Ann Cupolo Freeman, explained the other problems with the legislation.

Freeman said, “No assisted-suicide ‘safeguard’ can ever protect against coercion. In this era of managed care, will those living with a disability and the seriously ill be more likely offered lethal prescriptions in place of medical treatment? A prescription for 100 Seconal tablets costs far less than most medical treatments, especially considering the cost of long-term care for someone living with a disability.”

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She continued, “There would be no one there to know whether or not a patient changes her mind or decides that she isn’t ready to die. There would be no one there to know if the individual has taken the pills on her own or if someone else put the lethal dose in a feeding tube.”

As LifeNews also previously reported, in 2014, 29-year-old cancer patient Brittany Maynard received national attention after she announced her plans to kill herself under Oregon’s assisted suicide law. Maynard found out she had stage II glioblastoma multiforme and had up to ten years to live. However, after she had surgery, doctors found out that she had the most deadly form of brain cancer, stage IV glioblastoma multiforme. The cancer usually kills its victims in a matter of months.

Oregon is one of five states, along with New Mexico, Montana, Washington, and Vermont that allow assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act passed in 1997 and has allowed for 1,173 prescriptions, with 752 deaths resulting from access of the medication.

After Brittany’s diagnosis, she decided that she wanted to move from her California home to Oregon so that she could have access to the “death with dignity” prescription. Tragically, on November 2nd she took her own life with a lethal dose of phenobarbital.

Although California Governor Jerry Brown has reportedly not taken a position on the bill, his aids said he talked with Maynard before she committed suicide.