By Nancy Valko
Her obituary stated that Tessa was 55 years old and the divorced mother of two adult children when she died on May 14, 2002, in San Francisco, California, after a nearly four-year fight with breast cancer. She had been a real estate agent and later worked as controller in her son’s company.
Her son was Gavin Newsom, who just won the race for California governor November 6, 2018.
However and just the day before, a November 5, 2018, article in The New Yorker titled “Gavin Newsom, the Next Head of the California Resistance” gave a different version of Tessa’s death:
“Newsom’s sister, Hilary, said that when their mother had breast cancer, in her fifties, he was difficult to reach. ‘Gavin had trouble explaining to me how hard for him it was to be with her when she was dying, and I had trouble explaining to him how much I needed him,’ she said. ‘Back then, he seemed like the kind of guy who would never change a diaper.’
In May 2002, his mother decided to end her life through assisted suicide. Newsom recalled, “’She left me a message, because I was too busy: ‘Hope you’re well. Next Wednesday will be the last day for me. Hope you can make it.’ I saved the cassette with the message on it, that’s how sick I am.’ He crossed his arms and jammed his hands into his armpits. ‘I have P.T.S.D., and this is bringing it all back,’ he said. ‘The night before we gave her the drugs, I cooked her dinner, hard-boiled eggs, and she told me, ‘Get out of politics.’ She was worried about the stress on me.’” (Emphasis added)
Sadly, a previous 2016 San Francisco Chronicle article entitled “How Gavin Newsom’s family tragedy led to ammo-control initiative” quoted Gavin Newsom on an earlier suicide tragedy in his mother’s life:
“My grandfather committed suicide,but not before putting his daughter — my mother — and her twin against the fireplace and saying he was going to blow their brains out,” Newsom said.”(Emphasis added)
The Crazy History of California’s Physician-Assisted Law
I admit I was puzzled when California governor Jerry Brown signed a new law in September 2018, titled “AB-282 Aiding, advising, or encouraging suicide: exemption from prosecution.” This amended the 2016 physician-assisted suicide law that “Every person who deliberately aids or advises, or encourages another to commit suicide is guilty of a felony” to “A person whose actions are compliant with the provision of the End of Life Option Act (physician-assisted suicide) shall not be prosecuted under this section.” (Emphasis added)
For many years, California was especially targeted by assisted suicide groups like Compassion and Choices, the former Hemlock Society, for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide because of its size and influence. By 2015, there had been 8 failed attempts for legalization of physician-assisted suicide.
However, the Brittany Maynard tragedy started a media frenzy around the 30-year-old newlywed with an aggressive brain tumor when she announced that she and her family left California for Oregon to commit assisted suicide where it was legal and picked November 1, 2014 for her assisted suicide. Brittany Maynard also became a spokesperson to raise funds for Compassion and Choice’s campaign to legalize assisted suicide throughout the US. Her family continued to vigorously fight for a physician-assisted suicide law in California after her assisted suicide in Oregon.
Significantly and because of the Brittany Maynard tragedy, most mainstream media outlets have now dropped the term “physician-assisted suicide” in favor of more palatable terms like “death with dignity” and “physician aid in dying.”
Surprisingly though, another attempt to pass the “End of Life Options Act” in California failed in the 2015 legislature–until a sudden extra and controversial legislative session was called to pass it. This new law was signed into law by Gov. Brown and took effect in June 2016.
However in May 2018 and after at least 111 assisted suicide deaths, a Superior Court judge overturned the law, ruling it unconstitutional because of how it was improperly passed in the special legislative session.
Physician-assisted suicide was again illegal until a month later when California’s 4th District Court of Appeals granted the state’s request to reinstate physician-assisted suicide while it considers the case.
Then, as I mentioned before, Gov. Brown signed the law to prevent prosecution of anyone involved in an assisted suicide, including family members.
According to Findlaw:
“If you’re not a licensed physician, then assisting someone with suicide is most definitely a crime. But in states that have enacted “right to die” or “death with dignity” laws, eligible patients may request lethal drugs and administer them on their own.” (Emphasis added)
But the reality is that very few cases of a friend or family member assisting a suicide are prosecuted and, even then, the penalty is light or nonexistent. So-called “safeguards” are useless.
There is no chance that Governor Newsom will be prosecuted or even investigated for allegedly assisting his mother’s death in 2002 (long before California legalized physician-assisted suicide). But the new California law that forbids prosecuting anyone involved in a physician-assisted suicide who “aids or advises, or encourages suicide” further reinforces the dangerous myth that assisting suicide is a victimless and even loving act.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Nancy’s blog and is reposted with permission.