Physician-Assisted Suicide Almost Law in California

Previously considered “dead” for this year (including by me), the legislative proposal to legalize physician-assisted suicide in California was “resurrected” and introduced in a special session addressing health care financing.

Yesterday (Wednesday, September 9), the bill passed the California State Assembly, 42-33.  It is certain to pass the State Senate, which readily approved the original bill that had been voted down by a different Assembly committee than the one that handled the revived bill.

Whether Governor Jerry Brown will sign the bill is not certain.  Some have surmised that he might veto it, given his Catholic faith, his past work with Mother Theresa, and/or concerns about justice or the process followed in the Assembly.  It would seem ironic that a PAS bill would be considered in a session devoted to health finance.  It is not clear to me whether the bill, designated AB2X-15, was attached as a rider to another bill or just re-introduced at what its sponsors found was an opportune time.

The text of the bill is here, and analyses can be found here.

The news coverage I have seen refers to objections from Christians and from advocates for the disabled, but says nothing about the revolution in the nature of medicine that increasingly appears a done deal.

Opponents of the practice, like me, should, I suppose, prepare to fight for conscientious objector rights, to refuse to participate, and to protect vulnerable people from being taken advantage of.

The California bill would limit PAS to terminally ill people, at least for now.  But I note what the Economist magazine wrote on June 27 of this year:

“No one wants to make suicide easier for the depressed: many will recover and enjoy life again. But mental pain is as real as physical pain, even though it is harder for onlookers to gauge. And even among the terminally ill, the suffering that causes some to seek a quicker death may not be physical. Doctor-assisted death on grounds of mental suffering should therefore be allowed.”

My local newspaper has reported renewed suicide-awareness programs in San Diego County, encouraging people to look for the signs that someone is suicidal—such as feelings of hopelessness or not wanting to be a burden to others.  The idea is to get them help to try to keep suicidal people from killing themselves.

So I can’t help but wonder, following the Economist’s logic, if confronted with someone who is suicidal, how to decide whether to try to dissuade them or acquiesce—or even encourage—that person to seek out PAS.  I just wonder about that.


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Mark McQuain
Mark McQuain
5 years ago

It seems to me that on a number of issues of late, objective reality is giving way to subjective reality. If true, then the logic of the Economist article is not just a steeper slippery slope but an outright drop into the abyss. If my subjective reality is affected by mental suffering (and how could it not be), then how can I rationally gauge its affect on my reality to make a “proper” PAS decision?

One could only hope that this particular bill would get the same physician assistance it seeks for others.