This letter was published by California Against Assisted Suicide on September 7, 2015.
I hope you will have second thoughts about legalizing assisted suicide in California. Now especially that the California Medical Association secured the removal of any liability clause from AB2x 15, in the words of the committee staff’s analysis (see page 17), “wanton misconduct” and “gross negligence” will go unpunished.
The replacement clause, that professional licensing boards “may sanction” professional misconduct, is toothless. As we have seen across society, self-interested institutions cannot be trusted to police themselves. Please see the case of Wendy Melcher, who was illegally injected with lethal drugs by two Oregon nurses, completely outside the scope of the law. The nurses were not referred for prosecution, but were secretly dealt with by the state nursing board. The nurses continue to practice today.
In important ways assisted suicide laws are like death penalty laws: innocent people inevitably lose their lives. A strong consensus is now emerging against the death penalty because mistakes (witness misidentification, false confession) and abuse of the system (prosecutorial and police misconduct) lead to wrongful convictions and executions.
Mistakes and abuse in the medical system are common. People who are misdiagnosed (see John Norton), people who would respond to more treatment ( Jeanette Hall), or who would live years longer (some participants in Oregon have lived almost 3 years after being judged “terminal”) will be led to tragically “choose” death. Assisted suicide programs have offered lethal drugs to patients with severe depression (Michael Freeland) and to people denied treatment (Barbara Wagner). And because not all families are loving or financially secure, innocent people will be bullied or worse by abusive families and beneficiaries.