Disability Rights Advocates Fend Off Assisted Suicide Bills
Disability rights groups in California over the last dozen years have led the opposition against five failed legislative attempts to legalize physician-assisted suicide for some terminally ill patients, the Los Angeles Times reports (Ricci, Los Angeles Times, 8/6).
The most recent measure, AB 374, was pulled in June by its authors before a scheduled vote in the Assembly because of a lack of support. The legislation was modeled after an existing Oregon law (California Healthline, 6/8).
Disability rights activists argue that physician-assisted suicide would prompt health insurers, especially HMOs, to withhold costly care from the disabled and terminally ill as a means of pushing them to seek to end their lives.
Some disability rights activists say they could support physician-assisted suicide only if all medical, psychiatric and social support services were available to terminally ill patients considering the option.
Paul Longmore, a professor at San Francisco State University and a disability rights advocate, said, "Given the way the U.S. health care system is getting increasingly unjust and even savage, I don't think this system could be trusted to implement [physician-assisted suicide] equitably, or confine it to people who are immediately terminally ill."
Longmore added that AB 374 would have required physicians to give terminally ill patients information on pain management and hospice care but would not have ensured access to those services (Los Angeles Times, 8/6).