Governor Brown delivers death sentence to California

This article was published on the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network (CBC) website

By Jennifer Lahl, CBC President - October 5, 2015.

It is with heavy hearts that we at the CBC report that Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law ABx2 15. California becomes the fifth state to allow physician assisted suicide after Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont.

In his signing message to the California State Assembly, Governor Brown states that he weighed the arguments of those who support and those who oppose physician assisted suicide and concluded that he could not deny those dying and in “prolonged and excruciating pain” the right to end their lives.

CBC Board Member, Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Irvine, who has worked tirelessly to oppose AB x 2 15 said: Naturally, I’m very disappointed that Governor Brown signed into law today legislation that will permit doctor assisted suicide in California. His letter stating why he signed the bill indicated that he made his decision in the end based upon what he would want in the face of his own death, and suggesting that while he might not avail himself of this option he would want it available.

Among the many problems with this reasoning is this: Governor Brown is among the socially and economically privileged Californians who are least likely to be adversely impacted by this legislation—with access to the best healthcare and plenty of financial resources. But he has a responsibility not only for the impact of the legislation on him, or on those like him, but on all Californians. Those others who are economically and socially marginalized, who do not have access to even decent medical care, will be vulnerable to pressures to accept this cheap and expedient “option” for dealing with difficult, complex, and frequently expensive situations at the end of life. We have to look at the impact of this law not only for ourselves or for those close to us. We need to look at how it will impact the common good, on how it will affect healthcare institutions and the entire practice of medicine for patients at the end of life.

Link to the full article

Governor Brown, do not sign the death warrant of unhappy people

This article was originally published by Careful on September 25, 2015.

By Nancy Valko, a registered nurse living in St Louis, Missouri.

My daughter was the victim of assisted suicide, but she is not the only one.

Right now, a law hurriedly pushed through the California legislature after multiple defeats sits on the desk of Governor Jerry Brown and awaits his signature. As both a mother and a nurse I beg Governor Brown to veto it.

In 2009, I lost a beautiful, physically well 30-year-old daughter, Marie, to suicide after a 16-year battle with substance abuse and other issues. Her suicide was like an atom bomb dropped on our family, friends and even her therapists.

Despite all of our efforts to save her, my Marie told me that she learned how to kill herself from visiting suicide/assisted suicide websites and reading Derek Humphry’s book Final Exit. Derek Humphry is the founder of The Hemlock Society, now included with other assisted suicide groups and known as Compassion and Choices. The medical examiner called Marie’s suicide technique “textbook final exit” but her death was neither dignified nor peaceful.

Marie was not mere collateral damage in the controversy over physician-assisted suicide. She was a victim of the physician-assisted suicide movement, seduced by the rhetoric of a painless exit from what she believed was a hopeless life of suffering.

Adding to our family’s pain, at least two people close to Marie became suicidal not long after her suicide. Luckily, these two young people received help and were saved, but suicide contagion, better known as “copycat suicide”, is a well-documented phenomenon. Often media coverage or publicity around one death encourages other vulnerable people to commit suicide in the same way.

Think of Brittany Maynard, the young woman with a brain tumour who moved to Oregon to kill herself last November with a doctor prescribed overdose. Weeks before she killed herself, Ms. Maynard partnered with the well-funded Compassion and Choices organization to raise even more money to promote the legalization of physician-assisted suicide throughout the US.

There was an immediate and unprecedented media frenzy surrounding Ms. Maynard’s tragic story that routinely portrayed her pending suicide as “heroic” and even counting down the days to her suicide. Personally, I thought this looked like a crowd on the street shouting for a suicidal person on a window ledge to jump, but the narrative worked with much of the public.

Link to the full article

Governor Jerry Brown - Veto assisted suicide bill ABX2-15

Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown

Dear Governor Brown:

I am asking you to protect Californians. I am asking you to veto the assisted suicide bill ABX2-15. 

Link to the petition urging Governor Jerry Brown to Veto assisted suicide bill ABX2-15 petition.

This assisted suicide bill has been sold to legislators as a means of providing greater choice and control over one's death. This is not true. As the national disability rights leader, Diane Coleman stated:

Who actually has choice and control under assisted suicide laws? Anyone could ask their doctor for assisted suicide, but the law gives the authority to doctors to determine who is eligible. Doctors make the determination that a person is terminally ill and likely to die in six months, and that the request for assisted suicide is voluntary and informed. The advertised “safeguards” in assisted suicide bills are entirely in the hands of doctors, from the diagnosis, prognosis, disclosures, request form, decision whether to refer for psychological assessment, prescription and report after death.

Abuse of the law likely, especially with the imprecise language in the bill. Abuse of assisted suicide laws results in death. 

Marilyn Golden, Senior Policy Analyst for the California based Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, stated in an article published in the Los Angeles Times concerning the earlier version of the bill:

“If this bill passes, some people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes and abuse. No safeguards have ever been enacted or proposed that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone.”

Please protect Californians. Veto assisted suicide bill ABX2-15.

Link to the petition urging Governor Jerry Brown to Veto assisted suicide bill ABX2-15 petition.

California Governor Jerry Brown may need to veto assisted suicide bill.

Assisted Suicide is not safe.

California Assisted suicide bill SB 128 protects doctors and other participants in a patient's death, including family members - but it does not protect patients. This is done in three ways:

  1. Taking the teeth out of patient protections;
  2. Requiring the death certificate, which is the official cause of death, to reflect a natural death, rather than assisted suicide; and
  3. A near complete lack of transparency - in Oregon, similar confidentiality provisions preclude disclosure to law enforcement.

Patient choice and control is not assured by SB 128 instead it is a recipe for patient abuse. Other problems include steerage to suicide by healthcare providers and the risk of suicide contagion.

Link to the full article.