Advocates for Disabled Oppose California Assisted Death Bill
Advocates for Californians with disabilities are voicing opposition to a bill (SB 128) that would allow some dying patients to end their lives through lethal doses of medication, Kaiser Health News reports (Gorman, Kaiser Health News, 6/29).
Background on Bill
The End of Life Option Act, by state Sens. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) and William Monning (D-Carmel), would require that:
- Medication is self-administered;
- The patient is mentally competent; and
- Two physicians confirm the prognosis that the patient has six months or less to live.
Last week, an Assembly committee hearing on the bill was delayed until next month amid a lack of necessary support (California Healthline, 6/24).
Details of Opposition
Some advocates say SB 128 could lead individuals with disabilities to prematurely end their lives if they are experiencing depression or have received incorrect prognoses.
Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst at Berkeley-based Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, said the measure has "considerable dangers" for individuals with disabilities who have suicidal thoughts. "It would almost be too easy to make an irrevocable choice. It could lead to people giving up on treatment and losing good years of their lives," Golden said.
Disability rights advocates have fought similar measures in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and other areas, according to KHN.
Deborah Doctor, a legislative advocate for Disability Rights California, wrote a letter to Wolk last month expressing concerns that the bill does not include enough safeguards. "Our responsibility is to think of people who are the most vulnerable to coercion, abuse and pressure," she wrote.
Reaction From Supporters
However, supporters say the bill includes protections for individuals with disabilities. For instance, individuals would not qualify under the bill based solely on the fact that they have a disability and medication could not be prescribed if the individual's judgment could be impaired by a mental health disorder.
The bill also requires physicians to attest that the patient requested life-ending medication without undue influence from others.
Toni Broaddus -- California campaign director for Compassion & Choices, a not-for-profit organization that supports the bill -- said, "We don't want to see this law abused, and we certainly don't want to see it used against people with disabilities who have enough problems with the health care system."
She also noted that "[m]ost people with disabilities don't immediately have terminal illnesses and [that] most disabilities are not terminal," so they would not qualify under the bill (Kaiser Health News, 6/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.