Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Latest Amendments to California Euthanasia Bill

AB 654, California's proposed euthanasia statute (also called the "assisted suicide" or "physician aid-in-dying" law, depending on who is describing it) is moving along through the State Assembly. It was just amended yesterday, and the amendments tell us a lot. Protections are weakened and burdens on institutional health care providers like hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices are reduced. But-- and this is an important "but"-- the changes are only wonkish tweaks that do not change the bill's impact at all. Apparently no serious opposition has been mounted yet. I cannot believe that will continue for long.

The PDF version of the bill is here. The significant changes are:

  1. Removal of the courts from the process. In the prior version either a physician or a court could decide whether a person is capable of making his or her own health care decisions. Now only a physician would have that authority. This is a most interesting development in light of the judicial circus that occurred in the Terri Schiavo case. As a policy matter, one wonders whether resort to the courts should be foreclosed altogether. How confident can we be that leaving that decision to a single physician is in the patient's best interests?
  2. Healthcare facilities are no longer required to designate a qualified representative to witness the patient's request for life-ending medication. This probably something industry lobbyists requested in order to reduce the involvement of their employees in such sensitive and potentially controversial matters. I can't blame them.
  3. Patients requesting life-ending medication must be made aware of alternatives to suicide, such as hospice care.
  4. The patient must self-administer the lethal medication dose.
So the bill proceeds. You'll find more background on AB 654 in my previous post here. I hope the public debate on this bill will begin soon. I cannot imagine that Governor Schwarzenegger will sign this bill, but in any case the public ought to be fully aware of what is going on well before AB 654 is on the governor's desk.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Post -- I've linked to it here . 

Posted by John Schroeder (Blogotional)

Friday, April 22, 2005 6:32:00 AM  

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