The California state Assembly has approved a bill that would legalize assisted suicide with virtually no limits. The bill now has to move the bill through the Senate by Friday and after that can go to Governor Brown. The legislation passed by a vote of 42-33.
The L.A. Times has more on the debate:
Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown (D-Rialto) told lawmakers about her son, who was near death. Doctors urged her to let him go. Nineteen days later, he came off life support. He survived, and is now a husband and father.
“Doctors don’t know everything,” Brown said.
Assemblywoman Marie Waldron (R-Escondido) during the debate told members that “suicide should not be the first option where hospice and palliative care have not been tried.”
Californians Against Assisted Suicide noted the irony of the bill getting approval on a week devoted to stopping suicide.
“The powerful pro-suicide special interest groups are sparing no expense in their campaign – ironically during the week the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has designated “Suicide Prevention Week,” the group told LifeNews.
Californians Against Assisted Suicide spokesperson Tim Rosales told LifeNews:
“We appreciated many eloquent statements of assisted suicide opposition from progressive legislators representing low income districts. The bipartisan opposition and narrow Assembly vote indicates that there are still so many unanswered and troubling issues with this bill as it’s rushed through this special session. This bill remains opposed by groups representing people living with disabilities, cancer doctors, people advocating for the poor and uninsured and faith based organizations.”
Leading pro-life groups have condemned the jury-rigging of two Assembly committees that approved the legislation.
“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.”
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Below are some of the concerns opponents have presented against the bill:
- Assisted suicide legalization has failed more times than it has succeeded. , yet only 3 states have actually legalized it through legislative or voter action.There have been well over 100 legalization attempts in the past 20 years
- 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.
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.”
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.