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Disability groups fight back as California assisted suicide rates skyrocket

by | Aug 17, 2023

By Cassy Fiano-Chesser 

The number of deaths from assisted suicide in California increased by 63% in just one year, according to the state’s latest report.

In 2015, California passed a law legalizing assisted suicide, with legislators passing the bill during a special session meant to be dedicated to Medicare funding. For that reason, Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia overturned the law in May 2018, only for it to be reinstated one month later.

Since it took effect, the number of people who died under the lethal legislation has climbed each year, and 2022 was no different. In 2021, 525 people died from assisted suicide. In 2022, that number rose to 853.

Why such a drastic increase?

In 2021, California legislators moved to remove safeguards from assisted suicide, including decreasing the waiting period to just 48 hours, when it was previously 15 days. The new legislation also required doctors to refer patients to someone willing to participate in assisted suicide if they had a moral objection, though that portion of the law was struck down after doctors sued.

Legislators also considered allowing people with dementia to undergo assisted suicide. Some patients have also reported that insurance companies in California are refusing to cover treatment, and instead, will only pay for assisted suicide.

Disability rights groups at the time called foul, calling it a “deadly bait and switch.”

“[A] person who is distraught but considered mentally competent by his doctors could make the first oral request on a Monday morning, the second on Wednesday morning, make a written request immediately thereafter and receive and ingest the death-inducing drugs by Wednesday evening,” Lisa Blumberg, a writer and disability rights activist, wrote for Inside Sources. “Ironically, the process of receiving and taking a lethal prescription could take less time than for the drugs to work. It has occasionally taken people up to 72 hours to die with the drugs having bad side effects.”

Now, a group of disability rights groups has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to have the law overturned completely. The groups, which include Not Dead Yet, the United Spinal Association, the Institute for Patients’ Rights, and others, are seeking not only to have California’s assisted suicide law struck down, but those enacted across the country as well.

Allyson Howell, communications director for the Institute for Patients’ Rights (IPR), told the Baptist Press this is part of the reason their organization exists.

“Our organization has been opposed to assisted suicide laws from its inception,” Howell said. “That is its (the organization’s) purpose is to end the dangerous and discriminatory public policy of assisted suicide. Our goal has been to kind of look at the landscape of the states and see where the assisted suicide laws are most at risk of expanding or becoming more dangerous, and California fits that bill.”

“They have one of the most liberal assisted suicide laws and so our goal was to present this lawsuit, come together with other organizations who we know oppose this, and say, ‘We believe people with disabilities are at great risk of being targeted by these laws and these laws being expanded.’”

Diane Coleman, president and CEO of Not Dead Yet, called the lawsuit a “dream come true” in a press release. Director of minority outreach Anita Cameron said, “As a Black disabled woman, I have experienced both racial and disability discrimination in healthcare. Although few Blacks and people of color request assisted suicide, as it becomes normalized across the country, racial disparities and the devaluing of the lives of disabled people will lead to people being forced, or ‘convinced’ to ask for assisted suicide.”

The lawsuit says that assisted suicide creates a discriminatory legal system, in which people with a terminal illness — which qualifies as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act — are treated differently than their able-bodied peers, including receiving different treatment recommendations from doctors and inferior protections from the state. They are hoping for the law to be declared unconstitutional, and are prepared to take it to the Supreme Court.

“This lawsuit is our fight against a society and insurance industry that tells too many of us to hurry up and die,” Coleman said. “For all of us who’ve been denied the help we need to live, we’re not going to lay down and die. We’re Not Dead Yet and we’re fighting back.”

Editor’s note. This appears at Live Action News [ and is reposted with permission.

Categories: Assisted Suicide