Right-To-Die’ Bill Advances in Special Session Committee

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California Healthline, Wednesday, September 2, 2015

On Tuesday, an Assembly special session committee advanced a bill (ABX2-15) that aims to legalize physician-assisted death in California, the Sacramento Bee‘s “Capitol Alert” reports (Koseff, “Capitol Alert,” Sacramento Bee, 9/1).

Background on Bill

Assembly member Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) introduced the legislation after a similar measure (SB 128) stalled in July amid a lack of support in the Assembly Committee on Health.

ABX2-15 includes the same provisions as the stalled bill, which would have allowed some dying patients to end their lives through lethal doses of medication, as long as:

  • Medication is self-administered;
  • The patient is mentally competent; and
  • Two physicians confirm the prognosis that the patient has six months or less to live (California Healthline, 8/19).

ABX2-15 is opposed by:

  • Associations representing oncologists;
  • The Catholic Church; and
  • Disability rights activists (McGreevy [1], “PolitiCal,” Los Angeles Times, 9/1).

Details of Hearing

A hearing on ABX2-15 took place on Tuesday in the Assembly Public Health and Developmental Services Committee under the Legislature’s special session on health care (McGreevy [2], “PolitiCal,” Los Angeles Times, 9/1).

While there was testimony from opponents, the measure was received much more favorably this time around, according to “Capitol Alert.” For example, Assembly members Catharine Baker (R-Dublin) and Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego) became the first two Republicans to support the right-to-die effort during this legislative session.

However, Baker raised some concerns about patients being coerced or administered the drugs without their knowledge. She proposed an amendment that would require patients to reaffirm their consent within 48 hours prior to taking the lethal dose of medication. The amendment was approved and Eggman said it would be added before the bill’s next hearing in the Assembly special finance committee.

The committee proposed a second amendment to make physicians liable for “gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.” However, the amendment was rejected after receiving opposition from the California Medical Association (“Capitol Alert,” Sacramento Bee, 9/1).

CMA officials said they would change their position toward the bill from neutral to opposed if the amendment were included, noting that it could create costly and “frivolous lawsuits.” CMA also said that the change was unnecessary because the Medical Board of California has the authority to suspend or revoke providers’ licenses for failing to meet quality care standards (McGreevy [2], “PolitiCal,” Los Angeles Times, 9/1).

Source: California Healthline, Wednesday, September 2, 2015