Sacramento, CA - The California assisted suicide law unfortunately goes into effect on . Moving forward, the opposition coalition - Californians Against Assisted Suicide - and its partners - will be monitoring loopholes, continuing to be a steadfast voice against the law, and providing resources for Californians to bring to light the potential for and examples of mistakes, misuse, coercion, and abuse. The coalition will also continue supporting partners and organizations that are educating interested parties about their options to opt out as permitted by the law.
Immediately and in partnership with the national organization, Patients Rights Action Fund, the coalition is launching a new web page where concerned individuals, family members, friends can bring to light possible coercion, failure to identify depression or other patient mental health concerns, and complications that arise from the overdose prescription or process when assisted suicide is legalized.
“As a glioblastoma patient, the same cancer that Brittany Maynard had, I have a unique understanding about what it’s like being told by doctors that I had only months to live,” said Patients Rights Action Fund president and assisted suicide opponent JJ Hanson.
“I understand the immense pressure and feelings of depression that come with that diagnosis. That was more than two years ago and despite early setbacks, I would not still be here if it wasn’t for the support of my family, and second, third and fourth medical opinions. Our hope is that we can provide this online vehicle for patients and their families who may feel pressured by a daunting healthcare system, fear being a burden to their family, or are susceptible to suicidal thoughts when facing a seemingly hopeless diagnosis.”
JJ Hanson is a former Marine and aide to New York Democratic Governors Spitzer and Paterson, and has led the Patients Rights Action Fund since September 2015. The story of his battle with brain cancer can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
The coalition and its partners remain concerned that the law:
• Puts patients at-risk in a broken, profit-driven healthcare system;
• Not everyone comes from supportive or caring families and the law creates a climate conducive to elder abuse;
• Has very weak safeguards, allowing families to shop for other doctors to provide lethal drugs if their primary physician says no;
• Does not require mental health evaluations putting patients with depression at risk;
• Provides for no investigation of abuse claims; and
• Requires neither family nor a neutral witness to be present when the lethal drugs are taken.
The Californians Against Assisted Suicide coalition has been advocating against assisted suicide since 2005. The new California law allowing doctor-prescribed suicide was signed by Governor Brown in October 2015. This bill received significant Democrat and Republican opposition in the California Legislature, particularly in the State Assembly. It stalled in the Democrat-controlled Assembly Health Committee because of a significant failure to receive adequate support. The bill was later passed only through the use of an unusual legislative maneuver that placed the bill into a Special Legislative Session on healthcare funding that bypassed many established legislative protections.
Recent attempts to pass similar assisted suicide laws in at least fourteen other states, including Colorado, Nevada, New Jersey, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine and New Hampshire, have failed.
Today (March 10), following the close of California’s Special Session on healthcare funding, the 90-day clock begins before California’s assisted suicide law becomes operative on Day 91. The End of Life Option Act officially takes effect on June 9, 2016.
The close of the special session to address Medi-Cal shortfalls, important disability services and in-home care program funding, is a reminder of the controversial legislative tactics taken by proponents in order to narrowly pass the assisted suicide bill.
Californians Against Assisted Suicide remains strongly critical of this new law, and its lack of medical oversight and actual patient safeguards. We will continue working with our partners including doctors, patients and disability rights organizations to educate those impacted and vulnerable, as well as working to limit the law’s harms and prevent any expansion.