Second California Committee Holds Hearing Today on Dangerous Bill to Legalize Assisted Suicide

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 3, 2015   |   10:00AM   |   Sacramento, CA

Earlier this week, a California legislative committee approved a bill that would legalize assisted suicide with virtually no limits. The measure received approval from the Public Health and Developmental Services Committee on a 10-2 vote with one lawmaker absent.

The bill next next goes to the assembly finance committee, which is holding a hearing and vote today on the measure. Californians Against Assisted Suicide sent LifeNews the following action alert to generate last-minute calls and emails:

You Can Make A Difference! Let the State Assembly know that you oppose the bill and assisted suicide bill authors attempt to ram the bill into a Special Session on Healthcare Financing. Governor Brown, the LA Daily News, LA Times and La Opinion have all noted that the Special Session on Healthcare Finance is not the appropriate venue to address Assisted Suicide legislation.

1. We Need You To Attend The hearing

Who: State Assembly Special Session Committee on Finance
Where: California State Capitol – (wear red and meet on the 4th floor)
When: Thursday, Sept 3 – Plan to arrive around 11:30am.

If you can’t attend-these other items are extremely important!

2. Call members of the Committee. Let them you know that you are a constituent and oppose AB2x 15 – Assisted Suicide.

Asm. Jimmy Gomez – Chair – 916.319.2051
Asm. Frank Bigelow – Vice Chair – 916.319.2005
Asm. Richard Bloom – 916.319.2050
Asm. Reggie Jones-Sawyer – 916.319.2059
Asm. Kevin McCarty – 916.319.2007
Asm. Melissa Melendez – 916.319.2067
Asm. Jay Obernolte – 916.319.2033
Asm. Phil Ting – 916.319.2019
Asm. Shirley Weber – 916.319.2079

Governor Brown, the LA Daily News, LA Times and La Opinion have all written that the Special Session on Healthcare Finance is not the appropriate venue to address Assisted Suicide legislation. We need your voice to be heard. Please share.

  • If assisted suicide is made legal, it quickly becomes just another form of treatment and as such, will always be the cheapest option. This is troublesome in a cost-conscious healthcare environment.
  • Assisted suicide poses a threat to those living with disabilities or who are in vulnerable circumstances. When assisted suicide becomes an option, explicit and implicit pressure is placed on these individuals to take that option.
  • The safeguards in Oregon and Washington have proven to be hollow as they are easily circumvented. Patients are not required to receive a lethal prescription from their attending physician and can “doctor-shop”.
  • Six month diagnoses are arbitrary standards; nothing prevents these laws from being expanded to include individuals with longer prognoses or people “suffering” from other illnesses or disability. The longest and most studied examples of assisted suicide laws in Europe provide evidence for the expansion argument.
  • Nothing in the Oregon or Washington laws can protect from explicit or implicit family pressures to commit suicide or personal fears of “being a burden”.
  • Oregon’s data on assisted suicide is flawed, incomplete and disorganized. The state does not investigate cases abuse, and has admitted, “We cannot determine whether physician assisted suicide is being practiced outside the framework of the Death with Dignity Act.” The state has also acknowledged actually destroying the underlying data after each annual report. (Regarding abuses that have come to light in Oregon, see  this  handout on Oregon abuses.)
  • Suicide requests from people with terminal illness are usually based on fear and depression. Most cases of depression among terminally ill people can be successfully treated. Yet primary care physicians are generally not experts in diagnosing depression. Neither Oregon nor Washington assisted suicide laws require evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist to screen for depression or mental illness.
  • Under Oregon or Washington law, there is no requirement that family be notified when an assisted suicide prescription request is made.

Disability rights groups strongly oppose the bill.

The practice is opposed by many doctors, who feel they should preserve life rather than help to end it, the Catholic Church and many conservative religious groups. Disability rights activists fear disabled people will be pushed to end their lives by insurance companies or relatives who do not want to care for them,” Reuters reports.

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The measure has strong opposition from pro-life groups.

“The Public Health and Developmental Services Committee was comprised specifically for the Extraordinary session and replaces the original Assembly Health Committee that thwarted Senate Bill (SB) 128 earlier this summer. Numerous Democrats on that initial committee indicated they would not support the “death with dignity” bill and assured its demise” says Lori Arnold of the California Family Council. “Not content with the loss, determined lawmakers made an end run by using a narrow legislative tactic to reintroduce the measure during the special session on healthcare financing.”

“Governor Brown has indicated his displeasure with the new bill’s introduction, saying the Extraordinary Session is not the proper place or process to try to implement the controversial measure,” she said. “While pro-family advocates often have their differences with the governor, in this case we wholeheartedly agree.”

The following groups currently oppose the bill: Californians Against Assisted Suicide, the American Medical Association, American College of Pediatricians, American Nursing Association, California Family Alliance, California Catholic Conference, California Disability Alliance, Berkeley Commission on Disability, and Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

As Wesley Smith explains, “the new version of the assisted suicide legalization bill gives an open license to death doctors by preventing the possibility of meaningful oversight or transparency.”

From Assembly Bill X2-15:

The State Department of Public Health shall collect and review the information submitted pursuant to Section 443.9.

Sounds reasonable. But get this!

The information collected shall be confidential and shall be collected in a manner that protects the privacy of the patient, the patient’s family, and any medical provider or pharmacist involved with the patient under the provisions of this part. The information shall not be disclosed, discoverable, or compelled to be produced in any civil, criminal, administrative, or other proceeding.

In other words, nothing could be done with the “information” collected. And it couldn’t be used in a prosecution of a doctor, who say, assisted the suicide of a person who was coerced or not terminally ill.