California lawmakers propose assisted suicide bill
California lawmakers propose assisted suicide bill

[JURIST] Two Democratic state senators in California introduced a bill [text] on Wednesday to legalize assisted suicide and modeled the bill after the physician-assisted suicide law enacted by voters in Oregon in 1994. The bill would require [Reuters report] two doctors to confirm that the patient has six months or less to live before the drug that accelerates death is prescribed. The bill also requires that the patient seeking assisted suicide make two separate requests to one attending physician and two requests for two witnesses to confirm the patient’s wish to die. Supporters of the bill include Debbie Ziegler, whose daughter Brittany Maynard moved from the San Francisco Bay area to Portland, Oregon, after she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at the age of 29. Maynard ended her life legally on November 1. Critics of the bill are worried that some may end their lives prematurely. Marilyn Golden, Senior Policy Analyst for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund [advocacy website], is worried that the elderly, those suffering from mental illness and those with disabilities may be pushed towards assisted suicide [Advocacy report]. Golden is also concerned about possible abuse from caregivers and heirs.

The right to die [JURIST news archive] has been a contentious issue in the US and around the world. In 2006 the US Supreme Court upheld Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act [JURIST report], making Oregon the only US state that allowed assisted suicide at that time. Vermont, Washington and Montana also allow assisted suicide. The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in 2013 that a state law criminalizing speech [JURIST report] that “advises” and “encourages” another’s suicide is unconstitutional.