Assisted Suicide Start Date Set for June

assisted suicideBeginning June 9, at least some terminally ill Californians seeking to end their own lives will be able to do just that.

Because the law took effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourned, its special session pushed the start date into summer. “The California law will permit physicians to provide lethal prescriptions to mentally competent adults who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and face the expectation that they will die within six months,” as the Los Angeles Times reported.

After maintaining a long holding pattern, the patchwork of stakeholders involved in the change have shifted into action. “As the implementation date nears, medical groups, supporters, legislators and others are working to raise awareness of the new right-to-die law and ensure all terminally ill patients will have access to it,” CNN reported. “They are holding webinars, panels and town hall meetings, distributing information and setting up telephone lines.”

Substantial hurdles

Resistance to physician-assisted suicide has remained strong since legislation was first proposed, however. Combined with the relatively narrow tailoring of the law, crafted to achieve passage in Sacramento and adequate support statewide, “it still is unclear how the law will play out in California,” as Ben Rich, a bioethics professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Medicine, told CNN. “He said he expects some health institutions to be supportive and others to be unsupportive, leading to inconsistency around the state,” the network noted.

As it stands, Californians trying to avail themselves of the new process will have a laborious road ahead. “In January the state published guidelines for how the lethal drugs can be prescribed and administered, establishing a lengthy process to ensure that patients are making informed decisions,” New York Magazine observed. “Any patient wishing to be prescribed lethal dosages have to make two verbal requests, 15 days apart, and one written request. He or she has to be at least 18 years old, and a physician has to rule out mental illness.”

A limited trend

Even with its hurdles, the change has been hailed as yet another of California’s supposed bellwether bills. But states that have followed California’s lead on other issues may not be ready this time. In Maryland, this month, similar legislation went down to defeat, following a broader pattern. “Maryland is one of 25 states, along with the District, that have introduced what advocates call ‘aid-in-dying’ legislation since the highly publicized suicide of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old California woman who had terminal brain cancer and moved to Oregon in 2014 to legally end her life,” the Washington Post observed.

Kim Callinan, of assisted suicide group Compassion & Choices, told the Post it often “takes multiple times,” to make legislative headway. “In addition to California and Oregon, aid in dying is permitted, with varying restrictions, in Washington state, Vermont and Montana,” as the paper added.

Much comes down to the personal predilections of each state’s governor. Jerry Brown was seen to grapple with the philosophical precepts at stake in legalizing assisted suicide. “In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” he revealed in his signing statement, as the Los Angeles Times relayed. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.” Despite broad American trends toward a more individualistic view of the meaning of life, few governors, even in states where evangelical Christianity and Catholicism have not often mobilized to sink legislation, share Gov. Brown’s unusually spiritual — but distinctively Californian — outlook.

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Lawmakers to revive California right-to-die bill

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News:

SACRAMENTO — Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday will unveil plans to revive legislation that would give terminally ill Californians the right to die on their own terms.

Authors of the controversial “End of Life Option Act” shelved the measure last month when it became clear the bill didn’t have enough support to clear a key Assembly committee by a mid-July deadline. It was unclear Monday how the measure will advance now.

Senate Bill 128 would allow mentally competent, terminally ill patients to obtain a legal dose of medication from a physician to ease their suffering by ending their lives. It was inspired by Brittany Maynard, a UC Berkeley graduate who moved to Oregon to legally end her battle with aggressive terminal brain cancer. …

Click here to read the full story

Assisted Suicide Back From The Dead

Physician-assisted suicide has returned to California’s political agenda. After years off the table, the issue gained new life in the wake of Brittany Maynard’s high-profile decision to end her life.

Maynard, 29, an assisted-suicide activist living in Oregon, advertised her impending death as a dignified response to the “aggressive” form of terminal brain cancer that left her with a few painful months of natural life. Maynard moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Oregon to avail herself of the state’s 1997 law authorizing a narrowly tailored right to die at the hands of doctors.

Now legislators in Sacramento have borrowed the language of that law to draft a version that would protect assisted suicide throughout California.

Careful wording

Despite the vogue for so-called “death with dignity” bills, which are now in the works in 14 states nationwide, opposition to legal suicide is strong enough that California legislators opted to stick with the narrow terms laid down in the Oregon statute.

The bill, SB128, stipulates a long list of conditions that must be met for a person’s request to terminate their life to be fulfilled. For instance, only mentally competent adults given six months or less to live, and equipped with an in-state driver’s license and voter registration, may make the request of their attending physician.

The numerous legal hurdles are part of an effort to ensure the bill is not successfully portrayed as greasing a slippery slope toward fuller suicide rights. In 1992, California voters sank the Aid-In-Dying Act, reversing an apparent trend of support for the measure.

And as U-T San Diego reported, similar bills “were defeated last year in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts by a coalition of disability rights groups, medical associations, hospital workers and right-to-life groups.”

Those groups included the Catholic Church, which was instrumental in preventing assisted suicide in California and is expected, like other organizations, to mobilize against the current wave of bills.

Critics also point out the experience in the Netherlands, which had 6,000 cases in 2014 out of a population of 17 million, is that limits on euthanasia can be expanded. London’s Daily Mail quoted Dr. Peter Saunders, “What we are seeing in the Netherlands is ‘incremental extension,’ the steady intentional escalation of numbers with a gradual widening of the categories of patients to be included.”

Political posturing

The delicate wording of SB128 nevertheless struck a clear contrast with the political imagery and posturing surrounding the bill’s introduction. Maynard’s husband and mother made the case for the bill at an uncharacteristically raw news conference where nine California legislators announced the legislation.

“She recognized that to stay in California would mean she potentially would face a horrific death,” her husband, Dan Diaz, told reporters. “Brittany was a Californian. We lived in this state and she would have preferred to pass away peacefully in this state.”

State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who co-sponsored the bill with state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, echoed Diaz. “The fact that Brittany Maynard was a Californian suffering from an incurable, irreversible illness who then had to leave the state to ease her suffering was simply appalling, simply unacceptable,” she said.

Likely complications

Although Wolk, Monning and their allies have successfully capitalized on Maynard’s plans to make assisted suicide a fresh issue, they face opposition from political figures who can make or break SB128. Although in 1976, Gov. Jerry Brown approved a legal right for terminally ill patients to end so-called life-sustaining treatment, it’s unclear whether he’s willing to go as far as Wolk and Monning wish. He has yet to make public comment on the matter.

What’s more, SB128 faces big hurdles even before it can land on Brown’s desk. As Time reported, “Wolk expects the bill will make it out of committee and reach the Senate floor, but will have a tough time passing both houses of the Legislature.”

She told the magazine she expects a “heavy lift” in trying to secure passage over the objections of tradition-minded Democrats as well as Republicans.

As critics in the medical profession have observed, legally protected rights to suicide bring legal duties. In Oregon, for instance, the state-sponsored medical plan offered to cover suicide-inducing drugs instead of more costly cancer treatments.

Originally published at CalWatchdog

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