DREDF Testimony, Assembly Health Committee 9-1-2015 re AB 2X 15

Marilyn Golden

Senior Policy Analyst

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)



I am Marilyn Golden, Senior Policy Analyst with the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund.


The social justice basis for opposition to AB 2X 15


The proponents of AB 2X 15 present it under the banner of choice.


We, in opposition, present our concerns under the banner of social justice: disability justice; racial justice; economic justice.


Choice is a myth in the context of our unjust health care reality. End-of-life treatment options are already limited for millions of people—constrained by poverty, disability discrimination, and other obstacles. Adding this so-called “choice” into our dysfunctional healthcare system will push people into cheaper lethal options. There is no assurance everyone will be able to choose treatment over suicide; no material assistance for families of limited means who are struggling to care for loved ones; no meaningful protection from abusive family members or caregivers.


This bill protects doctors and hospitals, not patients. It presumes that all families are happy, and that everyone is financially secure and has no one around them working against their interests.


The bill assumes a fantasy world where government will effectively address abuse, under a bill with no provision for it.


Don’t be seduced by rhetoric of choice for a few, into a dangerous policy change that will bring social injustice to many.


Elder and disability abuse


Some particulars: This bill is a recipe for elder abuse (& disability abuse). An heir—someone who stands to inherit from the ill person—or an abusive caregiver can steer someone towards it, witness their request, pick up their lethal dose for them, and even, in the end, give the drug—because no objective witness is required at the death, so who would know?


The Oregon model is rife with problems


The Oregon model is rife with problems. We have evidence that was submitted to the Committee (though my oral testimony is too brief to present it) that under the Oregon model, in Oregon and in Washington State under virtually identical legislation to this bill:


  • Doctor-shopping has gotten around all safeguards


  • People with acute depression got access to lethal drugs


  • People have lost their lives due solely or partially to economic pressure and even criminal abuse.


  • Deaths have occurred by means other that the patient ingesting the deadly drugs themselves, with no legal consequences, notwithstanding what’s required.


  • Medical complications from the lethal drugs used, have added to any miseries already present for terminally ill patients.


  • Doctors have urged lethal drugs on sick patients who did not ask for them.


Hollow safeguards and neglectful oversight


And it’s not difficult to show that, under the Oregon model mimicked by this bill:


  • Misdiagnosis and incorrect prognosis, common in medicine, can end lives prematurely.


  • People with limited means can use the law to die quicker and save their family money. Is that why its supporters would vote for it? Because nothing can prevent that outcome.


  • Negligent medical personnel are explicitly free of any liability for their negligent actions.


  • People with intellectual and communication disabilities, and with dementia, are at particular risk.


  • Abuse is not investigated; there isn’t even a way to report it. Thus, it’s not what the Oregon data shows – it’s what it fails to show. The data shows no abuse because the system is set up not to find it.


Suicide contagion


An additional problem is suicide contagion, a very real phenomenon in society. In Oregon, government reports—not from the department providing weak oversight of assisted suicide, but a pro-active agency that tries to prevent suicides in general—reports that Oregon’s suicide rate is 41% above the national average, and that all the growth happened since 2000, which is just after assisted suicide became legal.


Is this suspicious association a coincidence? What my organization hears from people with psychiatric disabilities says otherwise. Individuals who struggle with suicidal feelings tell us that legalizing assisted suicide is like society sending a green light that committing suicide is OK. It encourages it.


One such Californian sent an anonymous letter to legislators opposing this bill, saying “the life you save, could be my own.”


Far more proposals defeated than passed


All this is why twelve states so far this year have rejected the same bill, including New Hampshire, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, and Maine; and why, overall, 29 states have similarly said no.


This bill is bad medicine for California. In the name of social justice, please defeat it. Thank you.