California state legislators introduced a measure that would legalize physician-assisted suicide during a special legislative session this week.
The measure, AB 15, would allow physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to individuals suffering from a terminal illness. Opponents of the measure called it a modified version of SB 128, which did not pass during the legislative session.
“This effort to bring back the measure during a special session will short circuit the conversation,” said kathleen-domingo of the archdiocesan Office of Life, Justice and Peace. “It is an effort to rush a life or death decision without allowing Californians to offer their opinion to their legislators.
Because it was introduced in a special session, the proposed bill could bypass the Assembly Health Committee, where an identical measure failed just last month. A broad coalition, including disability rights groups, patient advocates, nurses and physicians opposed SB 128.
“There was considerable concern on the effect legalizing doctor assisted suicide would have on the poor,” Domingo said. “It’s an effort by wealthy elites in California looking for autonomy. But the poor will suffer the effects of the measure most gravely. Assisted suicide is always the cheapest and easiest option.”
Domingo urged the community to contact their assembly members immediately to voice their opposition to the measure.
“The lives of the poor matter,” she said. “Suicide is not the answer.”
Andrew Rivas, director of government and community relations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said that while the measure had been modified, there hasn’t been substantial change.
“I see no concessions here,” he said, referring to problems raised by the coalition that opposed physician-assisted suicide earlier this year.
The special session is focusing on Medi-Cal funding and Rivas said the introduction of physician-assisted suicide came as a surprise.
“This is a heavy-handed attempt to force through a bill that could not get any traction at all in committee,” according to a statement from Californians Against Assisted Suicide.
“It’s one thing to run roughshod over the normal committee and legislative process to jam through a district bill, but to do that on what is literally a life-and-death issue is clearly abusive, and should concern all Californians.”
The new push comes just days after a San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled against legalized physician-assisted suicide in California. In his decision last week, Judge Ernest Goldsmith voiced concern that legalized physician-assisted suicide would target patients who are financial burdened by medical bills.
Tim Rosales, a spokesperson for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, said Goldsmith’s concern is justified.
“If assisted suicide were permitted, it immediately becomes the cheapest option for insurance companies, HMOsand also families,” Rosales said. “I think there are a lot of inherent dangers, particularly in a state as diverse as California.”
The newly proposed AB 15 was introduced in a special session on healthcare financing, a move Californians Against Assisted Suicide called “particularly troubling.”
“That should be truly frightening to those on Medi-Cal and subsidized health care, who quite logically fear a system where prescribing suicide pills could be elevated to a treatment option,” the coalition warned.
Rosales said he expects the well-funded proponents of assisted suicide to continue their fight in the legislature, the courts and even in a potential 2016 ballot measure. He said education will play a key role in ending the push for assisted suicide in California.
“People need to educate themselves about what assisted suicide really is and what it is not,” Rosales said. “Assisted suicide is very basically a doctor prescribing you about 100 pills. … It’s an overdose and the human body does not react well to overdoses of any kind, so there are complications and struggles and pains. Assisted suicide is not this fairy tale of an exit plan that has been told by proponents.”
Kate Veik contributed to this story.