March 22, 2016
Senate Health Committee
Attention: Teri Boughton
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4111
SB 1002 Monning: Oppose
The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), a national law and policy center on disability civil rights, opposes SB 1002, The End of Life Option Act Dedicated Telephone Number.
This bill is an expansion of the assisted suicide law even before it goes into effect. It’s a way to promote usage of the assisted suicide law. Last year the authors and proponents said this was a private matter solely between doctor and patient. Now the state would play a role in the law’s promotion.
There is no way to limit callers to people who are terminally ill, which is the distinction made in the End of Life Options Act. Anyone could call, including people who are depressed, and people eager to end the life of a family member. Will the state go beyond providing information about the End of Life Options Act? Will it make any referrals? If it refers callers to Compassion & Choices, why not Final Exit Network, which actively assists people to kill themselves without the involvement of a doctor? If the state refers people anywhere, it should be to crisis hotlines, because, again, anyone could be calling, not only people eligible under the Act.
How will state staff respond when a caller says:
- “My doctor won’t prescribe lethal drugs to me because she says I don’t qualify. Can you tell me who will?”
- “I am depressed and want to kill myself; what should I do?” Will the state refer the person to a crisis hotline? It should.
- “I believe my father is being coerced to utilize the End of Life Options Act.” What will the state do? Note that there is no investigative mechanism available to refer callers to. Will it refer callers to law enforcement?
- “How can I get medicine for pain?” How will the state respond?
This phone line, if established, should be limited to information about the law, but the draft language has no clear limits. If any referrals are made, all the referrals suggested above should be made, not only to assisted suicide groups such as Compassion & Choices. Other key resources would include crisis hotlines, law enforcement, and emergency medical services.
Wouldn’t it be a greater service to appropriate funding to ensure that problems are investigated? The State of California has no proposed process for addressing, or even collecting, reports of coercion or abuse; still no way to investigate them; and yet is appropriating funds to hand out information on an assisted suicide law that has very few protections.
Shouldn’t the bill require that information about callers and their questions be compiled? Such information should be publicly available.
Is this a hotline? That word is not in the bill or analysis, but it’s been used in connection with the bill on several occasions. The Oxford Dictionaries website defines hotline as “A direct telephone line set up for a specific purpose, especially for use in emergencies.” Is this an emergency hotline for people who want to bring about their deaths? Suicide hotlines work to save callers’ lives in personal emergencies.
We oppose the state of California starting a hotline about how to kill yourself, without resources to help people in distress to stay alive.
I can be reached for any questions at 510-549-9339 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your consideration,
Senior Policy Analyst