Saturday, August 1, 2015

California Prohibition Against Assisted Suicide is Constitutional.

Margaret Dore, Esq., MBA

A California trial court has upheld the constitutionality of that state's criminal statute prohibiting assisted suicide, which states:
Every person who deliberately aids, or advises, or encourages another to commit suicide, is guilty of a felony.
Penal Code § 401

The court's reasoning is contained in a 19 page "Ruling on Demurrer," filed on July 24, 2015. The ruling uses the term, "Aid in Dying" to mean physician-assisted suicide.  The term also means euthanasia. The court states in part:
Since "Aid in Dying" is quicker and less expensive, there is a much greater potential for its abuse, e.g,, greedy heirs-in-waiting, cost containment strategies, ímpulse decision-making, etc. Moreover, since it can be employed earlier in the dying process, there is a substantial risk that in many cases, it may bring about a patently premature death. For example, consider that a terminally ill patient, not in pain but facing death within the next six months, may opt for “Aid in Dying”' instead of working through what might have been just a transitory period of depression. Further, "Aid in Dying" creates the possible scenario of someone taking his life based upon an erroneous diagnosis of a terminal illness illness, which was, in fact, a mis-diagnosis that could have been brought to light by the passage of time. After all, doctors are not infallible.
Furthermore, "Aid in Dying" increases the number and general acceptability of suicide, which could have the unintended consequence of causing people who are not terminally ill (and not, therefore, even eligible for "Aid in Dyíng") to view suicide as an option in their unhappy life. For example, imagine the scenario of a bullied transgender child, or a heartsick teenaged girl whose first boyfriend just broke up with her, questioning whether life is really worth living. These children may be more apt to commit suicide in a society where the terminally ill are routinely opting for it, The message society needs to send to children must be that suicide is not an option for them; widespread "Aid in Dying," i.e., assisted suicide, may blur that message to immature minds. ('When grandma was in pain and dying, she just committed suicide. Why shouldn't I? My life is s-o-o-o painful."). Even though suicide (as opposed to assisted suicide) ís legal in California, the State has an important interest to ensure that people are not influenced to kill themselves," (Donaldson, at p. 1623.)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death claiming almost 4,600 lives eaoh year. A nationwide survey of youth in grades 9-12 in public and private schools in the United States found that 16% of the students had reported having seriously considered suicide. (CDC website, March 10, 2015)
Ruling on Demurrer, pp. 8-9.

At this point, the plaintiffs are saying that they will appeal.