WASHINGTON – The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the federation of 50 state right-to-life affiliates and more than 3,000 local chapters condemned Friday’s 23-14 vote by the California State Senate to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide and called on Gov. Jerry Brown to veto the bill.
“Friday’s vote shows a blatant disregard for the lives of California’s medically vulnerable citizens and sends a message to these citizens that their lives are less worthy to be lived,” said Carol Tobias, National Right to Life president. “The so-called ‘right-to-die’ movement promotes these laws as simply ‘another medical option’ at the end of life, but their real goal is euthanasia on demand for any reason.”
Ironically, the bill was passed during a special session of the California State Legislature, which was originally called to address cost savings for the state’s MediCal program. Indeed, there are many who would see doctor-prescribed suicide as a “cost-savings” measure. Writing about the bill’s passage in The New York Times, Ian Lovett included an observation by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, director of the medical ethics program at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine:
…[Kheriaty] said that low-income and underinsured patients would inevitably feel pressure to end their own lives in some cases, when the cost of continued treatment would be astronomical compared with the cost of a few lethal pills.
If Governor Brown signs the bill, California would become the fourth state to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide. (Additionally, the Supreme Court of Montana interpreted its law to make “consent” of the victim a defense in cases of homicide.)
The California bill is modeled after Oregon, which, in 1994, became the first state in the nation to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide. Proponents argue that such laws are necessary to provide “compassionate aid in dying for terminally ill patients,” and point to safeguards similar to Oregon, but the rhetoric obfuscates the real truth.
There are no real safeguards. It is a well-established fact that nearly every terminally ill patient who desires death is suffering from treatable depression. In Oregon, fewer than 6% of patients have been referred for psychiatric evaluation before obtaining life-ending drugs. Rather than treat clinically depressed patients, the Oregon system, and the system that would be established by the California bill, indicates that you instead help the patients kill themselves.
“We join with our state affiliate, California Pro-Life Council, in urging Gov. Brown to veto doctor-prescribed suicide in California,” Tobias said. “We urge all Californians concerned about the rights of the medically vulnerable to contact Gov. Brown and tell him to stop doctor-prescribed suicide.”