California Assisted Suicide Law is Denounced by Leading Disability Rights Policy Center

The following media release was originally sent out on June 7, 2016.

Contact: Marilyn Golden, 
Senior Policy Analyst, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
(510) 549-9339


Announces national web resource for reporting abuses and other problems

Berkeley, CA – June 7, 2016 – The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, a leading national disability rights law and policy center based in Berkeley, California, denounces the enactment of California’s End of Life Option Act, which goes into effect on June 9.

DREDF is pleased to announce, along with our coalition partners in Californians Against Assisted Suicide, that this week, the national organization Patients Rights Action Fund will launch a new web page where concerned individuals, family members, and friends can bring to light abuses, problems, and complications associated with assisted suicide laws. The new online resource is located at

California’s assisted suicide law, which is modeled on Oregon’s law, is marked by extraordinarily weak safeguards and oversight, posing great danger to many Californians with disabilities. as well as people with chronic and terminal illnesses, lower-income Californians, and to the general public.

Link to the full article

California assisted suicide law is challenged in court

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The California assisted suicide law came into effect on June 9. Based on the 15 day waiting period, the earliest possible death is June 24. The Coalition Against Assisted Suicide has launched a legal case and have asked for an injunction stating that the California assisted suicide law violates the equal protection Act

The Jurist reported on the case with the following:

A group of five doctors and the American Academy of Medical Ethics (AAME) [advocacy website] filed suit [application, PDF] Wednesday challenging a physician-assisted suicide law. The End of Life Option Act would allow "terminally-ill" patients, an individual who, determined within reasonable medical certainty, is going to die in 60 days due to an incurable disease, to be given a prescription for a lethal dose of "aid-in-dying" drugs. Those challenging the legislation argue that, "[t]he Act violates the equal protection and due process guarantees of the California Constitution in that it fails to make rational distinctions between ['terminally ill' citizens] , and the vast majority of Californians not covered by the Act." They argue that the term "terminally ill" is unconstitutionally vague and for that reason the law would "deprive individuals the protection of previously-existing California laws against assisted suicide by unconstitutionally creating a class of persons again based on arbitrary, unreasonable, and irrational distinctions." Finally, they argue that the legislature lacked constitutional authority to legislate on the matter of physician-assisted suicide during an extraordinary legislative session.

Californians Against Assisted Suicide is a diverse, broad-based coalition of disability rights organizations, physicians, medical groups, palliative and hospice care specialists as well as faith-based organizations.

John Kelly: Second Thoughts Against California Assisted Suicide Bill.

This letter was published by California Against Assisted Suicide on September 7, 2015.

John Kelly is the Director of the disability rights group, Second Thoughts.

John Kelly is the Director of the disability rights group, Second Thoughts.

Assembly member:

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.

Link to the full article

California renews push to legalize assisted suicide

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

California Governor Jerry Brown may need to veto the assisted suicide Bill AB 15.

The assisted suicide lobby has renewed their push to legalize assisted suicide in California after their previous assisted suicide bill, SB 128, was stopped in the Health Committee.

The assisted suicide lobby is taking advantage of a special legislative session that Governor Brown called to address shortfalls in healthcare funding. The new assisted suicide bill AB 15 is nearly identical to SB 128, but AB 15 will not be heard by the Health Committee.

Tim Rosales, a spokesperson for the Californians Against Assisted Suicide told the media:

"It is particularly troubling that in this rush to judgment, proponents are linking this bill with health care financing," 
"That should be truly frightening to those on MediCal and subsidized health care, who quite logically fear a system where prescribing suicide pills could be elevated to a treatment option."

Dr Jacqueline Harvey has written about how the assisted suicide lobby uses subversive strategies to sell assisted suicide

Bioethicist Wesley Smith stated on his blog:

Having lost fair and square in a California Assembly Committee, the suicide pushers have filed a new legalization bill–AB 15–for a special session intended to grapple with health care costs.

Assisted suicide advocacy is about lying. Catch this bit of mendacity from the bill: Aid-in-dying drug” means a drug determined and prescribed by a physician for a qualified individual, which the qualified individual may choose to self-administer to bring about his or her death due to a terminal disease. 
No. The death would not be from any disease, but a lethal dose of drugs.

The committee has been re-jiggered to take the “no” votes away, I am told. Can we say, stacked deck?

And the bill is on a very fast track. Can’t give people time to think or understand why assisted suicide is bad medicine and even worse public policy.

If this shameful machination works, I hope Jerry Brown remembers his service to the dying with Mother Theresa. She is definitely spinning in her grave.

California Governor Jerry Brown may need to veto Bill AB 15.

Link to the full article

"Big Business" and Assisted Suicide

This article was published on the Californians Against Assisted Suicide website.

By Margaret Dore Esq., MBA*

Margaret Dore

Margaret Dore

Assemblyman Roger Hernandez was recently quoted as concerned that big business would use California's assisted suicide proposal, SB 128, to "guide people in that direction," meaning early death via a lethal overdose.

This is a valid concern.

I am an attorney in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal. Our law is based on a similar law in Oregon. Both laws are similar to SB 128, which seeks to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia in California.

In Oregon, it is well documented that Oregon's Medicaid program uses coverage incentives to steer people to suicide. See: Affidavit of Oregon doctor, Ken Stevens, pp 3-4. With legal assisted suicide, private health plans have this same ability. Dr. Stevens states:

If assisted suicide is legalized in [your state], your government health plan could follow a similar pattern. Private health plans could also follow this pattern. If so, these plans would pay for you and/or your family to die, but not to live. (Emphasis added). Id, ¶16.

Dr. Stevens also notes that the mere presence of legal assisted suicide steers people to suicide, which was the case with his patient Jeanette Hall. Her cancer treatment was fully covered, but with the existence of Oregon's law, she nonetheless became adamant that she would kill herself. Dr. Stevens convinced her to be treated instead. (Affidavit, ¶¶ 5-9). She is alive today, fifteen years later.

Link to the full article

Disability rights advocates fight California assisted suicide bill

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Anthony Orefice with his family

Anthony Orefice with his family

USA Today published a very interesting article by Anna Gorman of Kaiser Health News concerning the role of disability rights activists in the assisted suicide debate in America. For instance Anthony Orefice from Valencia California who had a motorcycle accident 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. He did, but the accident left him paralyzed from the chest down ... All you are thinking is the worst, worst, worst – everything you can't do," ... "I wanted to be dead. 

Orefice, who is now 40, is married, has a 7-year-old son, owns a medical supply company and counsels people who are newly disabled with spinal cord injuries. Orefice says that:

"Depression,... is part of the healing process." 

Marilyn Golden (on right)

Orefice is one of many disability rights activists who are speaking up against the California assisted suicide bill. He and others are concerned that:

depression and incorrect prognoses may lead people with serious disabilities to end their lives prematurely.

Marilyn Golden, the senior policy analyst at Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, argues that the assisted suicide bill poses "considerable dangers" to people with new disabilities who may have suicidal thoughts. Golden states that:

"It would almost be too easy to make an irrevocable choice,"

Golden added:

many people who initially received terminal diagnoses have "lived full lives (for) years or even decades" longer than expected.

John Kelly, with the disability rights group Not Dead Yet, explained that the disability rights groups were less organized when the Oregon and Washington State and Vermont passed assisted suicide bills, but since then they have effectively defeated assisted suicide bills in many states including Massachusetts, Colorado and Connecticut.

Link to the full article

California Assisted Suicide Bill SB 128 Placed on Senate Suspense File

(Sacramento, CA) – On Monday, May 11th, the Senate Appropriations Committee sent SB 128, the bill legalizing doctor assisted suicide in California, to the suspense file. This action represents the latest hurdle the bill is facing in addition to growing opposition as more comes to light regarding abuses of the Oregon law and impact on suicide rates.

Part of the testimony offered in Monday's hearing addressed the significant lack of state oversight and regulation in both the Oregon law and the proposed California bill.

Dr. Warren Fong, president of the Medical Oncology Association of Southern California gave testimony highlighting the fiscal impact of SB 128: 

"In the short term, there will be costs to the Department of Public Health and various state licensing boards to create the regulations which will allow physicians to prescribe life-ending medication, and pharmacists to dispense it. The state will also have to consider whether, if this becomes legal, it will become a covered benefit in the Medi-Cal program. If so, physicians, pharmacists, and drug manufacturers will all have to be reimbursed for participating. 
"In the long term, there will be costs associated with performing oversight of this program, which is noticeably absent from the bill in print. The Medical Board will need additional funding to review complaints against physicians who participate in this program, and local and state law enforcement may need funds to investigate criminal complaints."

Marilyn Golden of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund also drew attention to the financial implications of the bill: 

"Making sure [abuse] doesn't happen might be impossible but if it isn't, it would cost a lot more money."

The bill must move out of the Senate by June 5th in order to progress this year. If the bill fails, assisted suicide supporters like Compassion & Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society) led by former Oregon HMO executive Barbara Coombs Lee have promised to go to the ballot in 2016. 

Contact: Californians Against Assisted Suicide - 916.475.4900