California – Attempts to Legalize Assisted Suicide

“Judge Tosses Challenge to CA’s Assisted-Suicide Ban”
(Courthouse News Service — July 27, 2015)
San Diego Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack threw out a plaintiff’s case, ruling that “it’s up to the Legislature or the people to change the law.”  In his ruling, Pollack called assisted death quicker and less expensive than prolonging treatment and said there is a much greater potential for its abuse.
The plaintiffs said they will appeal.

LAWMAKERS STALL CALIFORNIA’S DOCTOR-PRESCRIBED SUICIDE BILL
Despite efforts by assisted-suicide activists to capitalize on the death of a 29-year-old California woman who moved to Oregon for doctor-prescribed suicide, California lawmakers failed to pass SB 128.  When it became clear that the bill, scheduled for a vote in the 19 member Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday, July 7, did not have the votes necessary to advance it, its sponsors cancelled the committee vote. Thus, the bill is now considered a two-year bill and could come up for consideration through 2016.

But proponents may not wait until 2016. There is another strategy they may employ to circumvent the usual legislative process. That strategy is referred to as “gut and amend.” It uses a bill that has already made its way through various votes and, at the last minute, strips its entire content, leaving only the bill number. Completely different language — which need not have any relationship to the content of the original bill — is then inserted. The bill, as amended, is then ready for a vote without having to go through committees where it would be unlikely to pass.

“Gut and amend” has been successful in some cases.  However, when it was attempted in 2006 to pass a doctor-prescribed suicide bill, it failed.

A doctor-prescribed suicide bill was introduced in California on January 21, 2015.  Senate Bill 128 titled, the “End of Life Option Act,” is the seventh such bill to be introduced in California since 1994.
Text of SB 128 (as amended 6/16/15)
Analysis of SB 128 (as amended 6/16/15) [PDF]

Scroll down for past attempts to legalize assisted suicide in California

Articles:

“Judge Tosses Challenge to CA’s Assisted-Suicide Ban”
(Courthouse News Service — July 27, 2015)
San Diego Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack threw out a plaintiff’s case, ruling that “it’s up to the Legislature or the people to change the law.”  In his ruling, Pollack called assisted death quicker and less expensive than prolonging treatment and said there is a much greater potential for its abuse.
The plaintiffs said they will appeal.

“Right-to-Die Bill Unlikely to Pass in 2015 after Stalling in Assembly”
(California Healthline — July 8, 2015)
According to a Sacramento Bee poll of 15 or the 19 committee members, just four said they would support the bill in its current form.  Meanwhile, it found that at least seven members planned to oppose the bill in the hearing, while others planned to abstain from the vote.

“Struggling with a life and death issue”
(Sacramento Bee — July 8, 2015)
Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego is a key liberal opponent of SB 128.
“You think about this as a choice,” she said.  “But we have a health care system that is set up to cut costs.”
Referring to the class divide, Gonzalez said that helps explain why Democrats from more affluent areas backed SB 128, and Democrats representing poorer regions killed it.

“The Riggs Report: Aid-in-dying bill hits religious roadblock”
(KCRA, — July 8, 2015)
Rather than see the bill die, the authors pulled it from the agenda.  SB 128 will now become what is called a two-year bill, meaning that it won’t come up for votes again until next year.
That gives backers more time to round up support in the Assembly.  It’s also entirely possible that the legislation could re-surface this summer as part of an entirely different bill.  It’s a process known as “gut and amend” that allows bills to gain new life by being inserted into a stripped-down bill.

“Disabled rights advocates fight assisted suicide legislation”
(USA Today — June 28, 2015)
When he was 19, Anthony Orefice hit a telephone pole on his motorcycle going 100 miles per hour.  Doctors told his family he wouldn’t survive….As California legislators consider a bill that would allow terminally ill patients to get prescriptions to end their lives, disability rights advocates are speaking up in opposition.  They worry that if it becomes law, depression and incorrect prognoses may lead people with serious disabilities to end their lives prematurely.
More on disability perspective

“Will suicide bill die a natural death?”
(San Francisco Chronicle — June 24, 2015)
When [California] Senate Bill 128, which would legalize physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, passed the state Senate, supporters hailed the measure’s success as a sign of its inevitability….It turns out reports of the measure’s slam-dunkedness were greatly exaggerated.

“Right-To-Die Bill Passes Senate: Unknown How Gov. Brown Will Vote”
(CBS Sacramento — June 4, 2015)
California’s right-to-die bill passed the state senate on a 23 to 14 vote ahead of a legislative timeline…,SB 128 now goes to several committees, then to the assembly….Governor Jerry Brown will have to make the final decision. He has not weighed in on the issue.

“Doctors Medical Center Closure Shows Struggle of Hospitals that Serve the Poor”
(Capital Public Radio — April 20, 2015)
She [Joanne Spetz, professor of Health Policy Studies at UC San Francisco] says hospitals that serve the poor may continue to struggle in the new world of health care. The Affordable Care Act reduces payments to hospitals serving the uninsured.

“Coercion risk clouds euthanasia bill”
(San Diego Union Tribune — April 20, 2015)
“Perhaps the most significant problem is the deadly mix between assisted suicide and profit-driven managed health care…Again and again, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and managed care bureaucracies have overruled physicians’ treatment decisions.”

“Hidden Side Effect of Cancer Treatment: Big Bills”
(KQED — April 14, 2015)
Middle-income patients are — more than ever — feeling the weight of financial burden….High deductible health plans and soaring drug prices are to blame.
More on cost containment

“The National Council on Independent Living — latest organization to oppose Senate Bill 128″
(April 13, 2015)
It reinforces stereotypes that depending on others for assistance with activities of daily living is not dignified, which the disability community strongly opposes.

“Suit Seeks to Exempt Physicians From Assisted Suicide Law”
(New York Times — February 11, 2015)
A cancer patient and five doctors filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to exempt physicians who help terminally ill patients end their lives from a California ban on assisted suicide.

“We should think twice about ‘death with dignity'”
(Los Angeles Times — February 1, 2015)
As someone who supports all those other liberal causes, yet opposes physician-assisted suicide, I’d ask my fellow progressives to shine a cold hard light on this issue. We have been the target of a decades-long branding campaign that paints hastening death as an extension of personal freedoms….The movement is also pushing to expand the means of hastening death to include lethal injections delivered by physicians.

“Woman Mistakenly Declared Dead Died Trying to Escape Morgue Freezer, Lawsuit Alleges”
(Huffington Post — April 4, 2014)
A California family who claims a loved one was prematurely declared dead, and then “frozen alive” while trying to escape a morgue freezer, has filed a lawsuit against the hospital.

“Protect Secret Assisted Suicides!”
(National Review — September 6, 2013)
Compassion & Choices — once known by the more accurate name Hemlock Society — is in the well paid, but non profit, business of promoting assisted suicide.  Cut to California’s SB 62 that would add to current law requiring reporting of deaths caused by medical “gross negligence” to proper authorities, a requirement to report deaths caused by overdose of federally controlled substances — the drugs most commonly used in assisted suicide.
Text of SB 62

“Assisted suicide fraught with consequences”
(Sacramento Bee — July 14, 2013)
The topic of legalizing assisted suicide reappears every few years in California….Cost is always a concern. As the health care industry evolves, cost of care is becoming an increasingly prominent decision point, which in turn prompts more attempts by cost-minded administrators and HMOs to cut these costs however they can.

“Nurse refused to give CPR to elderly woman who later died”
(Los Angeles Times — March 3, 2013)
On a 911 tape released by the Bakersfield Fire Department, a nurse at Glenwood Gardens, a senior living facility, refused to give an elderly woman CPR.  The nurse said it was against the facility’s policy.
Note: The woman who later died was in the independent living facility — not an assisted living or skilled nursing facility.  She did not have a do-not-resuscitate order.

“Steve Lopez: End of life case in New Mexico may affect California”
(Los Angeles Times — August 14, 2012)
Tucker [Kathryn Tucker, legal affairs director for Compassion & Choices] said California’s statute on assisting suicide is similarly vague, and if the New Mexico court rules in favor of allowing aid in dying, “it could have persuasive influence in California.”

“Organ Donor Service firm Sierra Medical Services claims right to unplug donors”
(Examiner — May 8, 2012)
Peter Woods experience is a cautionary tale about a seldom profiled reality surrounding organ donations.  His wife, Gloria Woods, was critically injured in an automobile accident.  Much to Woods surprise, Sierra Donor Services informed him that, since Gloria had opted to be a donor on her California Driver’s license, Sierra “had the right to make the decision to remove Gloria Woods from life support and then to harvest her organs.”

“Defense in assisted suicide: Woman unaware vet wanted to die”
(Orange County — March 29, 2012)
Elizabeth Barrett was helping an 86-year-old friend take his medication — not assisting in his suicide, according to her attorney.  An autopsy revealed that Jack Keoncy died from the combined effects of the drugs Oxycodone, fluoxetine, and alprazolam, said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

“Wishing for the right to make that final exit”
(Los Angeles Times — December 18, 2011)
Kathryn Tucker, legal director for Compassion & Choices, says her group hasn’t given up on pushing to give Californians access to aid in dying [doctor-prescribed suicide], but she said it’s more likely to happen through legal action than legislation.

“Two People, Two Deadly Diseases, Two Opponents United Against Assisted Suicide.” (5/14/07)
AIDS patient Walter Park explains, “I don’t want to see the authority of the law tipping the balance of physicians and medical professionals in the wrong direction by giving the medical corporations they work for a further incentive to save money this way.”

“To the north, euthanasia up,” (Oakland Tribune, 3/9/07)
Based on Oregon’s official reports, about 525 Californians would kill themselves each year if AB 374 passes, and that number could increase to about 735 each year if California follows Oregon’s lead.

Bill would force Catholic nursing homes to permit assisted suicide
(First Things, 3/2/07)

“Assisted suicide backers gain a big ally,” (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/15/07)

“Lawmakers to reintroduce bill on doctor assisted suicide” (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/12/07)

“The language of death.” (LA Times, 2/12/07)


2007-2008 California Assisted-Suicide Bill (AB 374)

The 2007-2008 California assisted-suicide bill (AB 374), called the “Compassionate Choices Act,” failed to gain passage.

Background, text & analysis of 2007-2008 “Compassionate Choices Act” (AB 374)

2005-2006 California Assisted-Suicide Bill

On June 27, 2006, California’s latest assisted-suicide proposal (AB 651, the “Compassionate Choices Act”) failed — marking the fifth time since 1988 that assisted-suicide advocates have failed in their attempts to transform the crime of assisted suicide into a medical treatment in California.  Previous failed attempts took place in 1988, 1992, 1995 and 1999.

Assemblywoman Patty Berg and Assemblyman Lloyd Levine were the co-sponsors of the “Compassionate Choices Act.” It was originally AB 654 but, using a procedure known as “gut and amend,” it was renumbered AB 651).  The bill was modeled on Oregon’s assisted-suicide law.

Analysis and text of  “California Compassionate Choices Act” (6/16/06)

LULAC National Board Votes to Oppose California Doctor Assisted Suicide(4/6/06)
“Once again, the Latino community doesn’t want Assisted Suicide. The Disability community does not want Assisted Suicide. The poor and uninsured do not want Assisted Suicide.”
LULAC is the largest and oldest Latino civil rights organization in the United States.

California Latinos overwhelmingly oppose assisted suicide (3/7/06)
According to Angel Luevano, State Director for LULAC, “This poll confirms what LULAC has said all along–our community does not want doctor-assisted suicide.”
LULAC, the nation’s oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization, has expressed outrage at assisted-suicide advocates.  “Doctor-assisted suicide is incompatible with basic human rights and Latino values…LULAC will not stand on the sidelines while assisted suicide advocates misrepresent the opinions and moral views of the Latino community for their own political goals.”  (LULAC Press Release, 5/11/05)

“Death trumps choice,” (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/6/05). “What if you knew that legalizing assisted suicide meant that sick and disabled people, who don’t ask to die, nonetheless would be killed?”