Monday, August 30, 2021

California court case would extend assisted suicide law to euthanasia.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In the past few years the American assisted death lobby has pushed the limits of state assisted suicide laws. In 2019, Oregon eliminated the 15 day waiting period for assisted suicide and currently California is debating assisted suicide expansion bill SB 380 which, among other things, eliminates the requirement of a formal examination of the law.

The New Mexico assisted suicide law only requires a 48 hour waiting period, that can be waived, and it redefined who could approve assisted suicide to include nurses.

The California assisted death lobby is supporting a court case to expand assisted suicide to euthanasia in California. 

Legally, assisted suicide is a form of suicide where the law requires a person to "self-administer" a lethal drug cocktail with the assistance of a "medical professional" while euthanasia is a form of homicide whereby the "medical professional" lethally injects the person with a lethal drug cocktail.

Therefore the assisted death lobby is not asking the court to extend the assisted suicide law but rather they are asking the court to legislate an exception to homicide.

As reported by Lisa Krieger for the Bay Area News Sandy Morris, who is living with ALS, is challenging the California assisted suicide law based it being discriminatory to people with disabilities.

According to Krieger due to the degenerative effects of ALS Morris may not be capable of self-administering the lethal drug cocktail. Krieger reports:

Doctors who help the terminally ill confront a legal dilemma: Disability law mandates assistance and equal access to health care, while the aid-in-dying law mandates the opposite.

“I am trapped between two contradictory laws,” said Dr. Lonny Shavelson of Berkeley, chair of the American Clinicians Academy on Medical Aid in Dying. “When working with a patient with neuromuscular disease or various other neurological diseases, I’m forced to break one law or the other. There’s no other choice.”

It doesn't surprise me that the long-time assisted suicide activist, Kathryn Tucker, is the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs and Lonny Shavelson is a plaintiff. After California legalized assisted suicide, Shavelson turned his attention full-time to assisting suicides.

When a state legalizes assisted suicide the law is only a stepping stone. The legislators create "safeguards" for the purpose of selling the legalization of assisted suicide but once assisted suicide is legal, the goal is to expand the law.

Since legislators in California appear to be unwilling to legalize euthanasia therefore the assisted death lobby is resorting to a court case and are asking the court to legalize euthanasia.

If a California court grants Morris an exception or declares that the assisted suicide law discriminates against people with disabilities, then other states that have legalized assisted suicide will also expand their laws to allow killing by lethal injection.

The problem is that California legalized assisted suicide which allows doctors to be intentionally involved with killing people. Once medical killing is permitted, the only questions that remain are: Who can do it? For what reasons? and What methods are acceptable? 

Society needs to focus on caring for its citizens not killing.


TL said...

Yes, Alex, society needs to focus on caring for its citizens, not killing.
Among chimpanzees, there’s a certain percentage of the population who will kill other chimpanzees. Among us humans, it appears that the portion of our population with the propensity to kill other humans has gained sway with political leaders, in the belief that killing should be promoted as an act of love.
I keep wondering whether a biomedical ethics genius will one day develop a new system of ethics that holds that stealing should be promoted as an act of respect.

gordon friesen said...

Rather than try to uphold the ban on euthanasia, I would suggest our Californian friends demand that any new law be written to explicitly restrict euthanasia to people physically incapable of self-administration. This strategy might not change the eventual outcome, but it would clearly expose the dishonesty which you describe in your post.

Cold comfort, of course. But perhaps useful in the end. Especially if we can gain traction by doubling down on "yes it really can happen here" articles, based on the Canadian experience. (As you have, indeed, already been doing)