By Margaret Dore, Esq., MBA*
Assemblyman Roger Hernandez was recently quoted as concerned that big business would use California's assisted suicide proposal, SB 128, to "guide people in that direction," meaning early death via a lethal overdose.
This is a valid concern.
I am an attorney in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal. Our law is based on a similar law in Oregon. Both laws are similar to SB 128, which seeks to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia in California.
In Oregon, it is well documented that Oregon's Medicaid program uses coverage incentives to steer people to suicide. See Affidavit of Oregon doctor, Ken Stevens, pp 3-4 athttps://maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/dr-stevens-affidavit_001.pdf With legal assisted suicide, private health plans have this same ability. Dr. Stevens states:
If assisted suicide is legalized in [your state], your government health plan could follow a similar pattern. Private health plans could also follow this pattern. If so, these plans would pay for you and/or your family to die, but not to live. (Emphasis added).Id, ¶16.
Dr. Stevens also notes that the mere presence of legal assisted suicide steers people to suicide, which was the case with his patient Jeanette Hall. Her cancer treatment was fully covered, but with the existence of Oregon's law, she nonetheless became adamant that she would kill herself. Dr. Stevens convinced her to be treated instead. (Affidavit, ¶¶ 5-9). She is alive today, fifteen years later.
As for Assemblyman Hernandez's specific "big business concern," in 2013, a Montana State Senator made a similar observation:
I found myself wondering, Where does all the lobby money come from? If it really is about a few terminally ill people who might seek help ending their suffering, why was more money spent on promoting assisted suicide than any other issue in Montana?
Could it be that convincing an ill person to end their life early will help health insurance companies save a bundle on what would have been ongoing medical treatment? How much would the government gain if it stopped paying social security, Medicare, or Medicaid a few months early? [it could actually be years earlier]. How much financial relief would pension systems see? Why was the proposed law to legalize assisted suicide [SB 220] written so loosely? Would vulnerable old people be encouraged to end their life unnecessarily early by those seeking financial gain?http://www.montanansagainstassistedsuicide.org/2013/06/beware-of-vultures-senator-jennifer.html
Finally, there is the expansion issue. In Washington State, we have had informal "trial balloon" proposals to expand our law to non-terminal people. For me, the most disturbing one was in the Seattle Times, which is our largest paper. A column suggested euthanasia as a solution for people without funds in their old age, which could be any of us, say if the company pension plan went broke.**
Assemblyman Hernandez is right to be concerned about what could happen to his constituents if SB 128 is passed.
Don't let California make Washington and Oregon's mistake. Urge your legislators to vote "NO" on SB 128.
* Margaret Dore is a former Law Clerk to the Washington State Supreme Court and the Washington State Court of Appeals. She is a former Chair of the Elder Law Section of the ABA Family Law Committee. She also worked for a year with the United States Department of Justice. She is president of Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit corporation opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia. To learn more, see www.margaretdore.com and www.choiceillusion.org
** Jerry Large, "Planning for old age at a premium," The Seattle Times, March 8, 2012 ("After Monday's column, . . . a few [readers] suggested that if you couldn't save enough money to see you through your old age, you shouldn't expect society to bail you out. At least a couple mentioned euthanasia as a solution.") (Emphasis added).https://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/jerry-large_001.pdf