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Don’t call it Assisted Suicide

Posted by Brenda McCune on October 19, 2015

On October 5, 2015, California continued its race to become one of the most anti-life states with the enactment of the “END OF LIFE OPTION ACT”.  We became the sixth state to enact a law that will enable physicians to assist terminally ill patients to terminate their own life.  It is illegal in all of the other 44 states.

The bill that was passed in an “Extraordinary Session”, was named the “End of Life Option Act”.  In the past 20 years and 7 failed attempts to pass similar assisted suicide legislation, they learned that no one liked the word “suicide” in the bill.  Euphemisms continue to sell in the PC new-millennial world, at least in Sacramento.  If politically correcting the bill doesn’t work, just sneak it in during an off-time, under a ruse that it is something other than what it is.  This “Extraordinary Session” was to called after the regular session had ended, with the stated purpose being, to address “Medicare costs”.

In spite of the fact that the bill had not successfully made it’s way through the legislature in the regular session, in spite of the fact that seven prior bills proposing the same thing had failed in the state legislature, and in spite of the fact that In August, three days prior to this bill’s appearance, a San Francisco judge had upheld California’s ban on assisted suicide, it still was somehow deemed enough of an ‘emergency’ to address it in the “Extraordinary” session.
Certainly assisting and hastening the death of the terminally ill will help curb Medicare costs. However, at some point, we have to consider how reprehensible this is, that “end of life options” were lumped into a cost saving session.  We probably also need to issue a formal apology to Sarah Palin for ridiculing her “death panel” comment related to Obamacare. if you haven’t noticed, this is it, we are there.

If you are terminally ill, this new law will enable you to obtain a prescription for an “Aid-in-dying” drug. The new law provides for what appears to be an absolute “pass” for doctors to exercise their conscience. There will be no liability for refusing to write such a prescription. Can you hear the PA and Nurse Practitioner cottage industries popping up? Anyone authorized to dispense medicine under California law may prescribe the Aid-in-dying drug.  There are a plethora of documents that must be completed and witness and advisements adhered and explained and attested to.  This is exactly the kind of cumbersome paperwork that cries out for a non-doctor specialist.  Doctor’s offices, already overburdened with the health care and other regulatory schemes are not likely to take this on and will farm it out to specialists.  The legislation specifically provides that referring out, is anticipated and acceptable.

Life Insurers and Health Insurers, under this new law, may not take any actions that might discourage anyone from exercising these ‘End of Life Options”. Life Insurance can not exclude anyone from receiving benefits if they exercise their rights under this act, even though under most plans, suicide precludes receipt of benefits. If you get the prescription and jump through the procedural hoops, you can end your life and your family still gets the insurance. Health Insurance, it’s easy to assume they are all for this, but they can’t take any steps to dissuade people from it, nor can they exclude it from coverage.

Do you hear the sound of the premium increases coming?

The new law also addresses what the obligations of the prescribing medical professional must do. The law includes a host of warnings and cautions, and a possibility that a referral to a mental health professional can be required if mental instability is suspected. Imagine that. A terminally ill patient, might be suffering from depression. Who’da thunk it?  That is a whole different topic, but how long until certain mental illnesses become a ‘terminal’ illness?

It also specifies and outlines certain precautions, the prescribing professional must ‘verify’ the diagnosis of terminal illness. It doesn’t mention if there is any obligation to consider or advise upon wholistic methods or seek divine intervention. It does state though, that the patient, who must self administer the Aid-in-Dying drug, should be encouraged “Not to ingest the Aid-in-Dying drug in public.” Yes, it really says that. Well, after they do a full mental health exam, they should have great confidence that a possibly depressed and despondent and terminally ill patient will not attempt to traumatize others by dying in public, and will definitely talk to them about it in any event.

One of the greatest parts of the legislation though, is that it mandates the creation of a New Crime. Yes, it is not murder and it is not suicide. Murder is a crime. Assisting in a suicide is a crime. Nothing in this law authorizes you to take authority over someone else’s life or end of life. Of course, there are multiple ‘witness’ declarations and a family notification requirement prerequisite to obtaining your Aid-in-Dying, self administered, but not in public, drug prescription, but none of those people can help. If they do it is a crime, a felony in fact, but not murder and not assisting suicide.

This is not any attempt to make light of the significant suffering that terminally ill patients endure. It is not to discount the agonizing decisions that people and their families are faced with in these dire and tragic situations, BUT, the glaring reality in this unduly complex measure is that simple fact that rarely is anything made better when government steps in and attempts to create a one-size-fits-all process. This is but one more attempt to point out, how ludicrous and intrusive our ever growing and unduly burdensome our state government has become.

There has been a long standing wink and nod between patients and their oncologists when these situations arise. The advent of this law and complex regulation attached to it will not serve the stated purpose of making end-of-life-options more dignified. The opposite is likely to be true. Not to mention the extraordinary slippery slope and opportunity for abuse.

Imagine the government jobs that will be created in regulating this? Oh happy day, there he goes, growing the economy again, thanks Jerry.

This is not about dignity. It is about disposal, the too young, the too old, the unlovely, the unpleasant, in our society, no longer have a place. It is a moral issue, and we as a society, are failing. The fact that our legislature gets away with sliding this under the door during an eleventh hour ‘special’ session, and our conservative representatives can do nothing more that be “on the record” as opposing, speaks volumes about the pervasive apathy and acquiescence in society.

Express your gratitude to the local conservatives who hung in there and at least got their vote counted against this travesty, namely Ling Ling Chang and Matt Harper. There may be a day when we personally, not just publicly, need an advocate in our corner to have faith, to try again, to pray some more, to seek alternative medicine, to actually “fight” cancer. Let’s hope we have a person in our private lives like that, then.  These reps at least showed up and took a stand, even if it was not going to change anything.

This kind of legislation puts all of us, one step closer to not being able to reasonably and intelligently make those decisions about treatment. Additional intrusion into the doctor patient relationship is not a worthwile development. More rules never increased anyone’s freedom or autonomy.

Cue the Palin comment on the death panels again. It is here, folks. Wait for the expansion of the legal definition of ‘terminal’.

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