California Governor Signs Physician Assisted-Suicide Bill

On October 5, 2015, California become one of the very few states, to allow right to dignity legislation.

In September, California state senators voted 23-14 in favor on letting doctors prescribe life-ending medications who were expected to die within six months and are terminally ill.

The state assembly approved the bill earlier with a 43-34 vote.

Governor Jerry Brown who signed the legislation into law, had this to say to the Associated Press.

“I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill,” the governor said in a signing statement that accompanied his signature, the Associated Press reported.

The right to die with dignity was put back into the spot light last year, by Brittany Maynard.

On New Year’s Day, 2014, Maynard found out she had brain cancer and a few months later she moved from California to Oregon, in order to die with dignity, before her 30th birthday.

Maynard wrote this op-ed last November, which appeared on CNN:

“On New Year’s Day, after months of suffering from debilitating headaches, I learned that I had brain cancer.

I was 29 years old. I’d been married for just over a year. My husband and I were trying for a family.

Our lives devolved into hospital stays, doctor consultations and medical research. Nine days after my initial diagnoses, I had a partial craniotomy and a partial resection of my temporal lobe. Both surgeries were an effort to stop the growth of my tumor.

In April, I learned that not only had my tumor come back, but it was more aggressive. Doctors gave me a prognosis of six months to live.

Because my tumor is so large, doctors prescribed full brain radiation. I read about the side effects: The hair on my scalp would have been singed off. My scalp would be left covered with first-degree burns. My quality of life, as I knew it, would be gone.

After months of research, my family and I reached a heartbreaking conclusion: There is no treatment that would save my life, and the recommended treatments would have destroyed the time I had left.

I considered passing away in hospice care at my San Francisco Bay-area home. But even with palliative medication, I could develop potentially morphine-resistant pain and suffer personality changes and verbal, cognitive and motor loss of virtually any kind.

Because the rest of my body is young and healthy, I am likely to physically hang on for a long time even though cancer is eating my mind. I probably would have suffered in hospice care for weeks or even months. And my family would have had to watch that.

I did not want this nightmare scenario for my family, so I started researching death with dignity. It is an end-of-life option for mentally competent, terminally ill patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live. It would enable me to use the medical practice of aid in dying: I could request and receive a prescription from a physician for medication that I could self-ingest to end my dying process if it becomes unbearable.

I quickly decided that death with dignity was the best option for me and my family.

We had to uproot from California to Oregon, because Oregon is one of only five states where death with dignity is authorized.

I met the criteria for death with dignity in Oregon, but establishing residency in the state to make use of the law required a monumental number of changes. I had to find new physicians, establish residency in Portland, search for a new home, obtain a new driver’s license, change my voter registration and enlist people to take care of our animals, and my husband, Dan, had to take a leave of absence from his job. The vast majority of families do not have the flexibility, resources and time to make all these changes.

I’ve had the medication for weeks. I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.

I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity. My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don’t deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?

Now that I’ve had the prescription filled and it’s in my possession, I have experienced a tremendous sense of relief. And if I decide to change my mind about taking the medication, I will not take it.

Having this choice at the end of my life has become incredibly important. It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty and pain.

Now, I’m able to move forward in my remaining days or weeks I have on this beautiful Earth, to seek joy and love and to spend time traveling to outdoor wonders of nature with those I love. And I know that I have a safety net.

I plan to celebrate my husband’s birthday on October 26 with him and our family. Unless my condition improves dramatically, I will look to pass soon thereafter.

I hope for the sake of my fellow American citizens that I’ll never meet that this option is available to you. If you ever find yourself walking a mile in my shoes, I hope that you would at least be given the same choice and that no one tries to take it from you.

When my suffering becomes too great, I can say to all those I love, “I love you; come be by my side, and come say goodbye as I pass into whatever’s next.” I will die upstairs in my bedroom with my husband, mother, stepfather and best friend by my side and pass peacefully. I can’t imagine trying to rob anyone else of that choice.”

Current states that have right to dignity laws included Washington State, Oregon, California and Vermont.

According to a article in Time magazine last year, See Which States Allow Assisted Suicide, writer Emily Barone goes into detail regarding death with dignity laws.

Barone shows these facts, in regards to the aforementioned.

While the article is too long to reproduce, go to this web site for more details, http://time.com/3551560/brittany-maynard-right-to-die-laws/

Here are some brief facts to know from Barone’s article:

WHY PATIENTS SEEK LETHAL MEDICATION:

91%- Losing Autonomy

89%- Less able to engage in activities

81%- Loss of Dignity

50%- Loss of Bodily Functions

40%- Burden on family, friend and caregivers

24%- Inadequate pain control

3%-Financial implications of receiving treatment

 

 

EDUCATION OF THOSE WHO DIED

6%- Less than high school

22%- High school graduate

26%- Some College

46%- BA or higher”

Also, here is a state by state break down of legislation on this issue, provided by http://www.deathwithdignity.org/advocates/national#sthash.QTN4s66O.dpuf

“ALASKA*
Bill Number HB 99
Bill Title An act relating to the voluntary termination of life by terminally ill individuals
Summary TBD
Date Introduced 2/9/2015
Current Status Introduced by State Representative Harriet Drummond, a bill was heard on April 9 in the Health & Social Services Committee on April 9. The Committee adopted several amendments, and Rep. Drummond hopes to see progression on the bill next year.
CALIFORNIA
Bill Number SB 128 (Senate) / AB X2-15 (Assembly)
Bill Title End of Life Option Act
Summary Authorizes adults meeting certain qualifications and suffering from terminal illness to request medications for the purpose of ending their life.
Date Introduced 1/21/2015 / 8/18/2015
Current Status State Senators Bill Monning (D-Carmel) and Lois Wolk (D-Davis) introduced their bill on January 21 (watch our summary here). Death with Dignity Political Fund has provided strategic support for the effort in California. Meanwhile, on February 11 a lawsuit was filed in San Francisco challenging the state’s ban on physician-assisted dying. On March 25 the Senate Health Committee approved the bill 6-2, with 1 abstention; on April 7 the Judiciary Committee passed the bill 5-2; on May 28 the Appropriations Committee passed the bill 5-2; and on June 4 the full Senate approved the bill 23-15. The bill sponsors pulled it from the Assembly Committee on Health due to insufficient support and continued working on the bill. After the summer recess, Assembly Members Susan Talamantes Eggman, Mark Stone, and several others introduced a new bill, which is an amended version of SB 128, in an extraordinary legislative session dedicated to healthcare. Both the Assembly and the Senate approved the bill, on a 42 to 33 and 23 to 14 vote, respectively. Governor Brown signed the bill on October 5.
COLORADO*
Bill Number HB 15-1135
Bill Title Colorado Death with Dignity Act
Summary Concerning a terminally ill individual’s freedom to make end-of-life decisions.
Date Introduced 1/27/2015
Current Status Colorado State Reps. Lois Court (D-Denver), Joann Ginal (D-Fort Collins) and Lucia Guzman (D-Denver) introduced a Death with Dignity bill, which was debated and voted down in a House Committee. Rep. Ginal anticipates bringing the bill back next year; media reports have confirmed the bill sponsors will work to bring the bill back in 2016.
CONNECTICUT
Bill Number HB 7015
Bill Title An Act Providing a Medical Option of Compassionate Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Adults
Summary To allow a terminally ill person who is mentally competent the option to receive a prescription for medication that he or she can self-ingest to bring about a peaceful death.
Date Introduced 1/23/2015
Current Status Three state senators and 13 representatives introduced a bill, which was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 18. However, the Committee decided not to vote on the bill, marking the third time in as many years the bill failed to come up for a committee-level vote.
DELAWARE*
Bill Number HB 150
Bill Title An Act to Amend Title 16 of the Delaware Code Relating to Death with Dignity
Summary This act will allow a competent terminally ill patient the ability to request medication to end the patient’s life.
Date Introduced 5/28/2015
Current Status State Representative Paul Baumbach introduced a Death with Dignity bill that was tabled in Committee.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA*
Bill Number B21-0038
Bill Title Death with Dignity Act of 2015
Summary TBD
Date Introduced 1/14/2015
Current Status D.C. Ward 3 Council representative Mary Cheh has introduced a Death with Dignity Act. A hearing in the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee took place on July 10; the same day our new poll, conducted by Lake Research, showed that 67% of Washingtonians favor Death with Dignity.
HAWAII
Bill Number TBD
Bill Title TBD
Summary TBD
Date Introduced TBD
Current Status A bill was debated during the 2013 session but did not move forward. Legislators are again considering an Oregon-style Death with Dignity bill for this year’s session. Our leadership team has worked in this state to help build a foundation for success.
IOWA*
Bill Number HF 65
Bill Title Iowa Death with Dignity Act
Summary TBD
Date Introduced 1/21/2015
Current Status State Representatives Brian Meyer (D-Des Moines), Dennis Cohoon (D-Burlington) Sally Stutsman (D-Riverside), Mary Mascher (D-Iowa City), Timi Brown-Powers (D-Waterloo), Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton), Marti Anderson (D-Des Moines), and Beth Wessel Kroeschell (D-Ames) introduced a bill, which stalled in committee.
KANSAS*
Bill Number HB 2150
Bill Title Kansas Death with Dignity Act
Summary TBD
Date Introduced 1/28/2015
Current Status A bill has been introduced in the Kansas State House by the standing Committee on Vision 2020 and referred to the Committee on Health and Human Services.
MAINE
Bill Number SP 452 / LD 1270
Bill Title An Act Regarding Patient-directed Care at the End of Life
Summary Introduces legislation similar to the Vermont Patient Choice and Control and the End of Life Act.
Date Introduced 4/7/2015
Current Status Representatives Bobbi Beavers (D-South Berwick), Richard Campbell (R-Orrington), Kathleen Dillingham (R-Oxford), Denise Harlow (D-Portland), Brian Hubbell (D-Bar Harbor), Eric Jorgensen, (D-Portland), Diane Russell (D-Portland), Stephen Wood (R-Sabattus), as well as Senators Roger Katz (R-Kennebec/Augusta) and Dawn Hill (D-York) introduced a bill. The Joint Committee on Health and Human Services passed the bill 7-5 at a working session on May 22. The Senate voted 18-17 against the bill on June 15 and 16, while the House approved it on June 15 76-70. Sen. Katz vows to bring the bill back in the next session.
MARYLAND*
Bill Number SB 0676 (Senate) / HB 1021 (House)
Bill Title Richard E. Israel and Roger “Pip” Moyer Death With Dignity Act (Senate and House bill are cross-filed)
Summary Authorizing a qualified patient to request aid in dying by making specified requests.
Date Introduced 2/6/2015 (Senate) / 2/13/2015 (House)
Current Status State Delegate Shane Pendergrass (D-Howard) plus 37 co-sponsors, and Senator Ronald Young (D-Frederick) plus 7 co-sponsors, introduced cross-filed bills. Following committee hearings in both chambers, the bill was killed on April 1 with a decision to not put it up for a vote. The bill Sponsors intend bring the bill back in 2016. In the meantime, the bill is under consideration in summer-study committees, with hearings scheduled for September 9 and October 8.
MASSACHUSETTS
Bill Number H 1991
Bill Title Massachusetts Compassionate Care for the Terminally Act
Summary An Act affirming a terminally ill patient’s right to compassionate aid in dying.
Date Introduced 1/15/2015
Current Status After the narrow loss on the 2012 ballot, a bill was heard in committee in the 2013 session but did not move forward (unfortunately, a Death with Dignity bill cannot return to the Massachusetts ballot until 2018 because of the Commonwealth’s rules on the initiative process). Representative Louis Kafka (D-Stoughton) has filed a bill this session, the fourth time he’s done so, backed by 39 lawmakers. A hearing is scheduled for October 27.
MINNESOTA*
Bill Number SF 1880 / HF 2095
Bill Title Minnesota Compassionate Care Act of 2015
Summary A bill for an act relating to health and adopting compassionate care for terminally ill patients.
Date Introduced 3/18/2015 (Senate) / 3/23/2015 (House)
Current Status Senators Chris Eaton, Sandra Pappas, D. Scott Dibble, and John Marty introduced a Death with Dignity bill, which received an informational hearing. A companion bill was later introduced in the House by 17 co-sponsors. The bill is unlikely to be picked up again in 2016.
MISSOURI*
Bill Number HB 307
Bill Title Missouri Death With Dignity Act
Summary Establishes the Missouri Death With Dignity Act to allow patients with terminal disease to end their life in a humane and dignified manner.
Date Introduced 1/7/2015
Current Status State Representative Kimberly Gardner (D-St. Louis) has introduced House Bill 307, which was read for the second time on 1/8/2015. No hearings are scheduled and the bill is not on the House calendar.
MONTANA
Bill Number SB 202
Bill Title Montana Death With Dignity Act
Summary Establishes guidelines and immunities for physicians who provide end of life care.
Date Introduced 1/21/2015
Current Status The Montana Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that nothing in the state’s statutes prohibits physicians from prescribing medication to terminally ill patients; the ruling essentially rendered death with dignity not illegal in the state. In the current legislative session, State Senator Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, introduced a bill, which was later tabled in the Judiciary Committee. Related bills which would have criminalized Death with Dignity were defeated.
NEVADA*
Bill Number SB 336
Bill Title Patient Self-Determination Act
Summary TBD
Date Introduced 1/16/2015
Current Status Following our work building a foundation for success, Senators David Parks (D-Las Vegas), Ben Kieckhefer (R-Washoe), and 5 other co-sponsors introduced March 16 a bill modeled on the Oregon law March 16. The bill died in Health Committee without a hearing. The sponsors intend to bring the bill back in the 2017 session. Learn more →
NEW HAMPSHIRE
Bill Number HB 151
Bill Title TBD
Summary Establishing a committee to study end-of-life decisions.
Date Introduced 1/8/2015
Current Status Following a nay vote in the State House in 2014, New Hampshire legislators are returning to the issue again this session, with HB 151, sponsored by Rep. Phillips, which aims to “establish a committee to study end-of-life decisions.” The bill passed in the House on March 4, but Governor Hassan vetoed it on June 2.
NEW JERSEY
Bill Number Assembly Bill 2270 / S382 (identical Senate bill)
Bill Title Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act
Summary Introduces legislation similar to the Oregon, Washington, and Vermont Death with Dignity laws.
Date Introduced 1/14/2014 in the Senate, 2/6/2014 in the Assembly.
Current Status On 11/13/2014 the Assembly voted 41-31 in favor of the bill. In January, the Senate bill S382, was introduced in the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee with amendments. According to media reports, the bill may not make it out of the Senate before the January 12, 2016 deadline.
NEW MEXICO
Bill Number TBD
Bill Title TBD
Summary TBD
Date Introduced TBD
Current Status An appeals court has overturned a lower court’s ruling that doctors could not be prosecuted under the state’s assisted suicide law, saying nothing in the state’s Constitution allows for the right to die by means of physician-assisted dying. The state Supreme Court will be reviewing this latest decision beginning in October.
NEW YORK*
Bill Number A02129 & A05261 (Assembly) // SB 3685-2015 / SB 5814-2015 (Senate)
Bill Title New York Death with Dignity Act & Patient Self-Determination Act (Assembly) // New York End of Life Options Act / Patient Self-Determination at the End of Life Act (Senate)
Summary To grant terminally-ill New Yorkers the right to end their lives safely and in a humane and dignified manner (A02129) / Authorizes the prescription of aid-in-dying medication to individuals with terminal illnesses (SB 3685)
Date Introduced 1/15/2015 & 2/13/2015 (Assembly) // 2/13/2015 & 6/4/2015 (Senate)
Current Status State Representative Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) has introduced a bill in the Assembly, where it was referred to the health committee. A month later State Senators Diane Savino (D-N Staten Island/S Brooklyn) and Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) introduced a bill in the Senate, and a separate group of Representatives a parallel, patient self-determination bill proposal in the Assembly and Sen. John Bonacic (R-Middletown) in the Senate. Meanwhile, a lawsuit before the State Supreme Court seeks to legalize “doctor-assisted suicide” in the state.
NORTH CAROLINA*
Bill Number HB 611
Bill Title North Carolina Death with Dignity Act
Summary Introduces legislation similar to the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.
Date Introduced 4/9/2015
Current Status Representatives Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) and Susan Fishare (D-Buncombe) have introduced a bill together with two co-sponsors.
OKLAHOMA*
Bill Number HB 1673
Bill Title Oklahoma Death with Dignity Act
Summary Introduces legislation similar to the Oregon, Washington, and Vermont Death with Dignity laws.
Date Introduced 1/30/2015
Current Status Rep. Steve Kouplen (D-Beggs) has authored and filed a bill proposal.
OREGON
Bill Number ORS 127.800–127.897
Bill Title Oregon Death with Dignity Act
Summary Allows terminally ill patients to request medication to end their life in a humane and dignified manner.
Date Passed 11/1/1994
Effective Date 11/4/1997
Current Status In effect for 17 years, working as intended (read the annual reports). Learn more →
PENNSYLVANIA
Bill Number TBD
Bill Title TBD
Summary TBD
Date Introduced TBD
Current Status State Senator Daylen Leach (D-Montgomery) and Representative Rozzi (D-Berks) introduced a bill this session but it failed to move out of Judiciary Committee and is likely to not be taken up this year.
RHODE ISLAND*
Bill Number HB 5507 (House) / SB 598 (Senate)
Bill Title Lila Manfield Sapinsley Compassionate Care Act
Summary Provides a legal mechanism whereby a terminally ill patient may choose to end his or her life using drugs prescribed by a physician.
Date Introduced 2/12/2015 (House) / (Senate_
Current Status State Representatives Edith Ajello (D-Providence), Teresa Tanzi (D), Aaron Regunberg (D), Christopher Blazejewski (D) and David Bennett (D) introduced a bill in the House, which on April 8 received a hearing at the Committee on Health, Education, and Welfare, which recommended the measure be held for further study. Senator Gayle Goldin (D-Providence) and co-sponsors Christopher Ottiano (R), Joshua Miller (D), Erin Lynch (D), and Paul Jabour (D) introduced a companion bill in the Senate, where the Judiciary Committee made the same recommendation as the House Committee for the companion bill on May 28.
TENNESSEE*
Bill Number HB 1040 / SB 1362
Bill Title TBD
Summary TBD
Date Introduced 3/31/2015
Current Status Introduced by Representative Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) with two co-sponsors and by Senator Reginald Tate (D-Shelby), the companion bills were moved to summer study by both the House and Senate Subcommittees that considered them. A hearing was held on June 9. The bill will likely return in the 2016 session.
UTAH*
Bill Number HB 391
Bill Title Utah Death with Dignity Act
Summary Introduces legislation similar to the Oregon, Washington, and Vermont Death with Dignity laws.
Date Introduced 2/24/2015
Current Status Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck (D-Salt Lake City) has introduced a Death with Dignity bill this year in order to start the discussion about it. The House Health and Human Services Committee voted to send the bill for further study during an interim session.
VERMONT
Bill Number Act 39
Bill Title Patient Choice at End of Life Act
Summary Legislation similar to the Oregon and Washington Death with Dignity laws.
Date Passed 2013
Effective Date 5/20/2013
Current Status Vermont in 2013 became the third state to enact a Death with Dignity law—the first in New England and the first to be passed through legislation. In the 2015 session S.108, an act repealing the sunset on provisions in the Patient Choice at End of Life Act was passed by both the House and the Senate, and signed into law by Governor Shumlin on May 20. Learn more →
WASHINGTON
Bill Number RCW 70.245
Bill Title Washington Death with Dignity Act
Summary Legislation nearly identical to the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.
Date Passed 11/4/2008 (Ballot Measure I-1000)
Effective Date 3/5/2009
Current Status In effect for 6 years, working as intended (read the annual reports). Learn more →
WISCONSIN
Bill Number AB67 (Assembly) / SB 28 (Senate)
Bill Title N/A
Summary Permitting certain individuals to make requests for medication for the purpose of ending their lives and providing penalties.
Date Introduced 3/3/2015 (Assembly) / 2/11/2015 (Senate)
Current Status Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison) plus 4 cosponsors, and Representatives Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) and Sondy Pope (D-Cross Plains) plus 12 cosponsors, have introduced companion Death with Dignity measures modeled after the Oregon act in the Senate and Assembly, respectively. This is the 7th time such a proposal has been introduced in the past 20 years. In previous 6 attempts the bill was not heard by either chamber. Though the legislators aren’t confident the bill will pass this session, they believe “it’s a conversation lawmakers ought to have.”
WYOMING*
Bill Number HB 119
Bill Title Death with Dignity Act
Summary TBD
Date Introduced TBD
Current Status A House Committee has tabled a Death with Dignity bill sponsored by State Representative Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) and recommended the proposed law be researched by an interim committee.”

With California becoming the most recent state to allow death with dignity law, let’s hope this will pave the way for more states to allow similar policies.

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