Death-With-Dignity Group Working To Get Bill Introduced in Sacramento

Advocates for patient choice in end-of-life decisions have renewed their drive for a death-with-dignity law in California and hope to get a bill introduced in Sacramento in the new legislative session that starts Dec. 1.

“We have been talking to legislators who have expressed an interest in such legislation and determined this is the right time,” said Toni Broaddus, chair of the California campaign for Compassion & Choices. “It could be in a couple of weeks or in January.”

The Denver-based advocacy group, which Broaddus said has had a presence in California for some time but has been unsuccessful here, re-organized in the state last year and adopted a five-year plan to get death-with-dignity laws in place, either through legislation or a ballot measure.

With the story of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old San Francisco woman who moved to Oregon this fall to take advantage of Oregon’s death-with-dignity law still fresh in everyone’s mind, Broaddus said the timetable has been moved up.

Maynard, who had an inoperable brain tumor, died in Oregon on Nov. 1 using a form of barbiturates prescribed by her doctor.

“There is significant momentum because of the story of Brittany Maynard,” Broaddus said. “We are trying to take advantage of this momentum and move quickly.”

Broaddus said a poll taken by the organization in April had already indicated support from 64% of those surveyed.

Such death-with-dignity laws now are in place in Oregon, Washington and Vermont. Previous attempts in California have run into stiff opposition from physicians and religious organizations and have been unsuccessful.

Broaddus said the organization, with a $15 million national budget, is investing in the California effort, with a staff of 15 and offices in Los Angeles, Northern California and on the coast.

She declined to name the California legislators — members of both the Assembly and Senate — her organization is talking to.

She said California legislation would be modeled after the Oregon law, which was passed 20 years ago and has been in effect for 17 years.

It would allow the terminally ill who are mentally competent to access medical aid from doctors without fear of anyone being prosecuted.

“We want to make it clear that medical aid in dying is not suicide, it would be a medical practice,” Broaddus said.

Related Topics

Capitol Desk Public Health