California Senate Bill SB 128, the "End of Life Option Act," would legalize physician-assisted suicide in our state, supposedly on the grounds of compassion for the terminally ill. The entire premise of the legislation, however, is based on lies. As Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism and a consultant for the Patients Rights Council explains in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, the foundation of the proposed law is both faulty and deceptive. Examining the level of oversight provided by SB 128, Smith concludes that it would depend "almost entirely on self-reporting by physicians, who are about as likely to tell the state they broke the law as they are to tell the IRS they cheated on their taxes." The legislation also opens the door to elder abuse.
As even its apologists have acknowledged, the "successful" Oregon assisted-suicide law, enacted in 1997, provides neither the authority nor resources for the investigation of wrongdoing. Apply this logic to California, and disaster is perfectly foreseeable. Compared to Oregon's 3.8-million population, California is home to 37.5 million people. If 105 people committed doctor-facilitated suicide last year in Oregon, Smith notes, we can expect to have at least 10 times that number in California, with all the budget problems, abuses, and lack of oversight that all too often make health care in our state a nightmare. If you want guaranteed system failure with deadly consequences, look no further than assisted suicide.
The End of Life Option Act would present a perfect opportunity for predators targeting a victim's property and money - in cases of elder abuse, a wrongdoer could use options available under the proposed law to "speed up" a terminally ill patient's death and seize control of their estate. Undue influence can be a subtle but powerful tool to convince a patient that their life would be better off ended, and the sooner the better. Beyond these gaping loopholes, the entire law is founded on lies, concealing even the true cause of death in public records. As the bill itself states:
The cause of death listed on an individual's death certificate who uses aid-in-dying medication shall be the underlying terminal illness.
Which translates to cover of darkness for the perpetrators of stealth murder. Rather than proposing physician-assisted suicide as a cost-effective "option," within both our families and communities, we can help each other meet the end of life with real dignity through suicide prevention and compassionate hospice care. Let's believe in better and treat each human life as the inherent gift it is.