On Friday, September 11, the California Senate passed an assisted suicide bill, Abx2-15. The Senate had passed another assisted suicide bill; SB-128, in June, but it stalled in the Assembly Health Committee, because several Democrats expressed concerns about how the practice of assisted suicide might exacerbate class, race and disability-related inequalities in the healthcare sphere, and was never brought to the Assembly floor.
This month, Governor Jerry Brown called a special legislative session, to consider how to reduce the expenditures associated with California’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal. The proponents of the original bill exploited the special session by introducing Abx2-15, which was presented through two committees with different members from those on the committee that had rejected it in the regular sessio . After passage in the Assembly, the Senate bypassed its committee process altogether and sent the bill to the floor in order to pass it by the end of the legislative season.
The legislation, which bars malpractice litigation against doctors who prescribe lethal drugs to “terminally ill” patients , only holds doctors to a good faith standard. It also bars the disclosure of government statistics regarding the use of Abx2-15.
Assisted suicide will now become law in California unless Governor Jerry Brown vetoes it.
We are asking people from every state to contact the governor, using the form here: https://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php. Please ask him not to validate the idea that assisted suicide is an acceptable way to reduce Medi-Cal costs.
Please remember that religious arguments are unnecessary, as the law is bad on its face; such arguments actually hurt our cause, since the proponents of assisted suicide have for a long time sought to marginalize all opposition as purely religious. Remind the governor about the reality of suicide contagion; the Oregon general suicide rate has risen since legalization of assisted suicide at a rate consistent with such contagion. Remind him that the reasons Oregonians give for committing assisted suicide tend to be existential concerns related to the onset of disability in the course of a terminal illness; the top five reasons they give are loss of autonomy, “dignity,” or control over one’s bodily functions, inability to engage in activities and feeling like a burden on loved ones. Tell him that the law provides no way for the government to oversee its implementation after lethal medication is obtained; no witnesses are required at the time of ingestion. Remind him about people like Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup, Oregon Medicaid recipients who were denied chemotherapy coverage and offered assisted suicide instead; after they went public the state stopped writing letters offering such alternatives, but it did not stop denying coverage for treatment and offering coverage for assisted suicide, thus steering people in the direction of the latter. Remind the governor of people like Jeanette Hall, who requested lethal drugs from a doctor, was persuaded to obtain treatment instead, and is alive sixteen years later; ask the governor not to validate a policy with the potential to eliminate years of someone’s life. Lastly, please remind him that two CA court judges ruled that assisted suicide is not a fundamental liberty interest; the state has an interest in protecting vulnerable people from abuse and in preventing suicide contagion.
The good news, about which we should also remind Governor Brown, is that the British Parliament overwhelmingly rejected an assisted suicide bill on the same day the California Senate passed one. Please remind Governor Brown about this decision and of the fact that in the last year, ten state legislatures have rejected assisted suicide.
Ask Governor Brown to have the wisdom and courage to reject a law that is unlike other laws in that the error and abuse it cannot possibly prevent will not be remediable, because the affected people will be dead.
Please take the time to do this. What happens in California will affect people all over the US and the world. You can make a difference.