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

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Marilyn Golden, 
Senior Policy Analyst, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
(510) 549-9339  mgolden@dredf.org

DREDF.jpg

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 athttp://patientsrightsaction.org/stories.

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

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.

Disability rights leaders and cancer surviver opposes assisted suicide

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In 2015, 26 states have considered legislation to legalize assisted suicide and all of them have defeated that legislation. Disability rights groups, Not Dead Yet, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) and Second Thoughts are successfully leading the opposition to assisted suicide.

An article by Danielle Ohl and published by McClatchy DC  examines one woman's experience with cancer while explaining why disability rights leaders oppose assisted suicide.

The article begins with Chastity Phillips, a woman who is living with chondrosarcoma, a malignant bone cancer, since 2002 and now has Lupus. Unlike Brittany Maynard, Phillips chose to be treated. From the story:

Doctors told Chasity Phillips in 2002 that she had a 50 percent chance of surviving surgery. 
Her choices were certain death, her doctors said, or surgery to remove part of the tumor. 
She chose the surgery. Still, the return of her cancer was likely. Doctors told her she would have six months to a year before it grew back, requiring more risky followups.  
But 13 years later, Phillips is 38 years old and thriving, despite two very severe medical conditions.

Phillips developed a healthy philosophy about her possible mortality:

“There’s a certain freedom that comes with dying,” said Phillips, who lives near New Orleans. “You really don’t have to deal with your annoying cousin. You really don’t have to go on that family trip. You can eat ice cream for breakfast.”

The article then examines the disability rights community opposition to assisted suicide

Link to the full article

California assisted suicide bill died a peaceful death

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

California assisted suicide bill SB 128 has died a peaceful death in the California House after Democrat legislators opposed it based on opposition from the disability community and the Latino community.

The assisted suicide lobby has organized more than 25 attempts to legalize assisted suicide in States this year with all of them failing. These campaigns were financed with the money raised by the assisted suicide lobby through the Brittany Maynard assisted suicide campaign last year.

Reuters news reported that Democratic Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, who is on the health committee, said his opposition stemmed from his background in healthcare.

To me it's not what healthcare is about 
For me to go back on everything I've done and give that option, so to speak, is something I'm not comfortable with.

Disability rights advocates united in opposition to SB 128. Anthony 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.

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

What you don't know can kill you

This article was posted by Careful on June 1, 2015.

Marilyn Golden

Marilyn Golden

By Marilyn Golden - Senior Policy Analyst with the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund

In a supplement to her testimony to the California Senate Health Committee on assisted suicide bill SB 128, disability rights expert Marilyn Golden looks at the supposed safeguards in the bill to see if the state’s remaining 3 or 4 million uninsured, and masses of underinsured, would be safe.

Under the bill:

* Two doctors must agree the person meets the law’s criteria. But there’s considerable evidence that in Oregon, if your doctor tells you no, you can shop for a doctor who will say yes. An overwhelming number of Oregon’s suicides were facilitated via the organization Compassion and Choices. How often do these referred physicians say no? We don’t know. The reports don’t tell us.
* The person must be terminally ill with 6 months or less to live. Are depressed persons who are misdiagnosed as terminal given lethal drugs? We don’t know. In Oregon over the last few years, only in 3% of reported cases were people were sent for a psychological assessment, according to Oregon’s own figures, yet depression is the most common cause of a request for death. Have people whose depression could have been successfully treated, died in Oregon? We can’t know.

Now let’s look closer at the annual statistical reports mandated by Oregon’s law and this bill. Do they really show us the full picture?

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