California’s assisted suicide deaths surge. People with disabilities steered to death.

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

James Reinl wrote an excellent article that was published in the Daily Mail on August 15 on the 63% surge in 2022 California assisted suicide deaths. Reinl reports on the data but he also received input from myself and several people with disabilities for his report. Reinl states:

Record numbers of people ended their lives in California last year in America’s biggest doctor-assisted suicide program, after lawmakers made it easier for residents to get their hands on lethal drugs.

Last year, 1,270 people got fatal prescriptions under the state’s End of Life Option Act (ELOA), and 853 people used them to end their lives, the California Department of Public Health said in its 
annual report.

That’s a jump from 863 scripts and 522 deaths the previous year.

The surge in assisted suicides came after California lawmakers in 2021 backed a law that shortened from 15 days to 48 hours the time needed to apply for
 a cocktail of suicide drugs. That law took effect in January.

Matt Valliere

Matt Valliere, director of the Patients’ Rights Action Fund, told Reinl:

‘’It’s no wonder that the number of assisted suicides soared in the year after the California legislature effectively removed the original 15-day cooling-off period,’

‘Most Medi-Cal patients cannot get a mental health consult in less than 72 hours and are not guaranteed palliative care, but now, they can get suicide drugs in 48 hours and the state will pay for it every time.’

Reinl quoted myself on the possible under-reporting of assisted suicide in California:

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg, director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, warned that many US assisted-suicide programs have unreliable data, as not all doctors accurately report scripts and deaths back to the state health body.

In California last year, doctors wrote 294 prescriptions for which there was an ‘unknown ingestion status,’ says the 15-page report.

That could mean… that life-threatening drugs are sitting unused in a drawer, or that the patient used them to kill themselves and the death was not recorded.

‘This self-reporting system makes it is impossible to know when a doctor does not send
 in a report or abuses the law,’ said Schadenberg.

Reinl commented on the lawsuit that was filed in April to overturn the California assisted suicide act:

Several campaign groups for disabled people earlier this year filed a lawsuit to declare California’s ELOA ‘unlawful and unconstitutional’ because it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In their suit, they complain about the bias they faced trying to get health care during the coronavirus pandemic and say the system is too quick to offer assisted suicides.

People with disabilities often struggle to get the medical care
 they need and, as a result, may be quick to seek assisted suicide as an option, lawyers in the case say.

Reinl then interviews Ingrid Tischer and Diane Coleman, from Not Dead Yet, who are people with disabilities that are directly involved with the lawsuit:

Ingrid Tischer

Ingrid Tischer, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who lives with a form of muscular dystrophy, says doctors were unwilling to treat her properly when she contracted pneumonia during COVID-19.

‘The law gets in your head. That’s what happened to me,’ says Tischer.

A non-disabled person is steered towards suicide prevention. And the disabled person is steered toward a suicide prescription.’

Diane Coleman

Diane Coleman, a woman with neuromuscular disabilities who has used a wheelchair since childhood, and now heads the national rights group Not Dead Yet, is also involved in the lawsuit.

‘Assisted suicide is just one of the many symptoms of an ableist eugenics society that believes life with a disability is a fate worse than death,’ she said.

Reinl also included interviews with disability leaders, Brianna Hammond, John Kelly and Anita Cameron, and an interview with a man named Christopher, whose father died by assisted suicide in Oregon.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and reposted with permission.