*Letter in response to California State Assembly Committee on Aging and Long Term Care on February 19. Testifying before the committee was Michael White, board member of the Death with Dignity National Center and an Assisted Suicide advocate that co-authored the failed Proposition 161 that would have legalized the practice in California.
Assembly Committee on Aging and Long Term Care
Chairperson, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada
1020 N Street, Room 360
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Chairperson Yamada and Committee:
As the former Director of the California Department of Rehabilitation (1999-2006) I appreciate the Assembly Aging and Long Term Care Committee taking a critical look at the many issues surrounding "end of life." I would be attending this committee hearing in-person today, but I am out of town due to a fami[y obligation.
I have long been a proponent of increasing access and information to quality counseling, hospice, and palliative care, for those with an illness defined as terminal. However, I am concerned that this topic not be broadened to include a discussion of assisted suicide legalization as part of this continuum of care. For a variety of reasons, assisted suicide legalization poses a very real danger and concern to people living with serious illness or disability.
Looking at the psychological impacts, assisted suicide would have far more potential to do harm than good to individuals facing serious illness or disability that may be defined as terminal. Apart from these concerns, assisted suicide legalization is a direct threat to anyone viewed as a significant cost liability to public or private healthcare providers.
Additionally, I respectfully caution the committee from relying on "end-of-life" data compiled in states like Oregon and Washington, the only states where assisted suicide is currently legal. Neither state mandates data collection or reporting of patients requesting lethal prescriptions, how many are referred for psychological treatment or if they are receiving hospice care. The data collected by the state is submitted by doctors attending these patients.
I am equally concerned about consideration of any data or information provided on the "end of life" issue by the organizations Compassion & Choices and Death with Dignity National Center. Compassion & Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society, was created with the intent of passing and supporting assisted suicide legalization efforts. The Death with Dignity National Center's stated mission is to promote the "right to request and receive a prescription to hasten death." Both organizations have a specific agenda as it relates to "end of life" and are outside mainstream hospice, disability rights and medical organizations.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit to the Committee, and please feel free to call on me as a resource as your discussions on this topic move forward.
Catherine Campisi PhD
Former Director California Department of Rehabilitation ( 1999-2006)
Former Dean of Student Services - California Community Colleges (1999)
Former Chairperson - California State lnter-agency Americans with Disabilities Act Task Force (2000-2003)
Past President Association on Higher Education and Disability