California – Attempts to Legalize Assisted Suicide

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
Analysis of SB 128

Scroll down for past attempts to legalize assisted suicide in California


“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?”