Questions Raised About State Data, Safeguards in Assisted-Suicide Law

Organizations opposed to physician-assisted suicide responded to an Assembly hearing held today which was called to evaluate implemention of assisted-suicide by doctors in California but instead appeared to be more a call for expansion of the practice and a lessening of safeguards to protect the vulnerable:

"Assemblymember Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) hosted a Select Committee hearing today at the Capitol on the California End of Life Option Act.   As organizations representing broad constituencies we are not intending to debate AB2X-15 (Eggman) again, yet we remain opposed to the policy of assisted suicide.

"Since the law was signed, one of the most pressing concerns for us and many in the medical community is the paucity of data collected and reported, as well as transparency of the process.  Last June, following the six-month report on the End of Life Options Act from the California Department of Public Health, Assemblymember Eggman’s spokesperson acknowledged the problem to the Associated Press. Specifically, important data that has been collected but not reported includes information from the attending physicians’ follow-up form, the attending physician’s checklist and from the Patient Request form

"The reporting of this data is critically important and demonstrates that the California End of Life Option Act law still has significant hurdles.  There is far too much still not known about how this law is put into practice – especially as it pertains to disabled, elderly and other populations.

"California is failing to properly investigate some very fundamental questions such as whether patients were coerced into the procedure or somehow influenced and, especially for Medi-Cal patients, whether they had the option of good, effective palliative care.

"Both the composition of the Assembly’s Select Committee and today’s End of Life Option Act hearing agenda suggests there is a lack of interest in presenting a variety of viewpoints.  All of the Members of the Committee that served in the Legislature at time the bill was being heard either co-authored or voted to pass. We hope that future hearings and discussions reflect the diversity of perspective and broad experience of those implementing the law."

(Sponsors of the statement are the Alliance of Catholic Healthcare, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, California Catholic Conference, Communities Actively Living Independent & Free (CALIF), FREED Center for Independent Living)

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