California Considers Assisted Suicide Legislation

Senate bill inspired by right-to-die activism of Brittany Maynard.


Brittany Maynard ||| Brittany Maynard Fund
Brittany Maynard Fund

California legislators are looking to bring Oregon's assisted suicide law down a few miles to the Golden State. The move was inspired by the very public death of Brittany Maynard, 29, who moved from California to Oregon so that she could legally end her own life rather than to suffer due to terminal cancer.

Senate Bill 128, known as the "End of Life Option Act," mimics Oregon's law and would allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill, mentally competent adults. Read the legislation here. Maynard's mother and husband gave statements in support of the legislation at a press conference yesterday when it was introduced by state Sen. Lois Volk (D-Davis). From the Sacramento Bee:

"Please help me carry out my daughter's legacy," Maynard's mother, Debbie Ziegler, said after sharing the story of how her family uprooted their lives in California to relocate to a state where Maynard could choose how to die.

Maynard's widower, Dan Diaz, called his wife's decision "ethical and very logical."

"This is not something that is any sort of mandate. Leave it to the patient to decide for themselves. A legislator or a religious figure should not get in the way of that. That's pretty much a quote from Brittany," said Diaz, who lives in the Bay Area town of Alamo.

California previously considered right-to-die legislation in 2006 and 2007.  

Below, Reason TV on the fight for the right to die in Montana:

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  1. How many fees will be involved?

    1. It’s healthcare, so the fees will be simultaneously huge and “free”.

  2. The Attractive Young White Woman Used To Promote __________ is in effect.

    I suspect that most of the people that would avail themselves of this statute would be older and less….photogenic. I loathe the fact that such discussions have to be swayed by the outward appearance of parties involved in them.

    1. Puppy Multiplier Bonus

      1. Funny thing is, if she said she wanted to have the puppy die with her, folks would be going crazy trying to prevent the puppy being put down.

        1. Unless the puppy was terminal ill

    2. Yep. But at some point, results matter. If Lobster Girl ran for president from the LP and won because she looks like Lobster Girl, I think we’d have to get over the shallowness of it all.

      1. Well, it would be Lobster Girl

        wait, what were we talking about now?

        1. Side boob

    3. Yeah, I mean, not that he was pushing for his own assisted suicide (although he did say he wanted to have the option if he was extremely ill) but all I’m remembering is Dr. Kevorkian being referred to as ‘Dr. Death’.

      Attractive Young White Woman he is not.

    4. I would have thought that the pretty white girl effect wouldn’t work so well in the case of assisted suicide. I’d think that ugly old people wanting to take their lives would be more sympathetic, if anything. Do you really think that sways people’s views on this?

      1. I just don’t like that it is even being attempted. I suspect it is only because it works, at least to some extent.

  3. “This is not something that is any sort of mandate.”

    For NOW….

  4. The move was inspired by the very public death of Brittany Maynard, 29, who moved from California to Oregon so that she could legally end her own life rather than to suffer due to terminal cancer.

    Based on what we know of California politicians, the problem here is that Maynard moved to another state, denying California valuable licensure fees and tax revenue.

    I think the real motivation is clear.

    Californians must commit suicide in California. Imagine the loss of revenue if Maynard left a valuable estate behind.

    1. I think if I ever commit suicide it will be at the capital so they can see the alternative to legal suicide. Side note: my wife just got back from Tallahassee and said you are allowed to conceal carry in the state house with a permit. I learned something.

      1. We just got banned from carrying in the state house.

        Well, open-carrying in the people’s house.…..c-gallery/

        1. Owen said it didn’t make sense to allow people to openly carry firearms while banning backpacks, signs and umbrellas.

          I’m guessing allowing backpacks, signs and umbrellas never crossed his mind.

        2. Huh. I think we just got back the right to carry in the statehouse. Or are just about to.

  5. I thought California was already committing suicide?

    1. A bit more slowly than this Act contemplates, but, yes.

    2. We have to build the bullet train before we can jump in front of it.

      1. People could ride the bullet train to assisted suicide hospices.

  6. Well at least we’re becoming freer in some ways.

    1. It’s funny that state bodies are more willing to allow you to kill yourself than to smoke in public.

      1. allow you to kill yourself

        The state really likes the “assisted” part.

  7. OT:

    Joanna Krupa ‘files defamation lawsuit against Brandi Glanville for claiming her private parts smell’…..smell.html
    Swamp pussy. Ugh.

    1. Should I have heard of either of these people?

      1. No. They’re famous for being famous, basically. Staples of the tabloid world. Krupa is a great advertisement for plastic surgery though. Her doctor deserves a pat on the back.…..orida.html

      2. I watched some summer replacement reality/game show once where she was teamed up with Terrell Owens, and after they lost a contest she ripped the absolute shit out of him. Just vicious, “you call yourself a man” type stuff.

  8. Should a person who is committing suicide be denied this “Service” if they have outstanding debts? I have no problem with someone choosing to off themselves, but if they use it as a way to dodge debts or other contractual responsibilities, I don’t see how a doctor should be legally allowed to do that. It’s like helping someone conceal their identity to avoid fraud charges.

    1. I’m not sure if this is going to be a significant problem.

      If my estate owes people money and I die (for whatever reason) there can be liens put against my estate.

      I’m no expert on estate law, but I don’t think it’s that easy.

    2. So you no longer own yourself if you owe people money?

      1. Well, I thought this was about making it legal to ASSIST someone (the service). If someone breaks the law or a contract, they should be held accountable. Obviously that’s hard to do if they are dead, but that doesn’t concern me.

        If someone helps another person break the law or a contract, aren’t they engaging in a conspiracy or aiding and abetting or something similar? Wouldn’t we hold them liable for part of the damages?

    3. That is an odd concern.

    4. I think the doctor should probably take payment up front.

    5. I’m having a hard time with debts imposing a duty not to die.

      Following this logic, nobody should be allowed to enter a hospice or palliative care program if they owe money. After all, those programs allow people to die, rather than extending their life so they can continue to pay their debts.

      1. “You exist to serve this debt, therefore earn well… and live!”

      2. Don’t we all take on encumbrances all the time that limit our freedoms? We enter into contracts which can, among other things, limit our freedoms of speech and movement.

        As an analogy, let’s say you take a bunch loans out then convert the money to gold and skip off into hiding. You are obligated by contract to pay that back, and by refusing to pay that money back, you are in breach of contract. Likewise if you took out a bunch of loans, planning to live high on life for a month before popping some DieQuick pills.

        I suppose to answer my own question, if you as a “Service Provider” knowingly helped a person convert funds and go into hiding, you’d be held at least partially to account for their crime/breach. On the other hand, we cannot hold the airline who flew you to Aruba accountable because they were not knowing accomplices.

        I think this gets more complicated if we talk about potential suicides among parents of young children. Don’t they have a responsibility to ensure that the kids are taken care of? I know that there are estates, and I would think that if the estate is enough to take care of a person’s obligations, this isn’t a problem. But I’m talking about those cases where the estate is very obviously insufficient.

        I still think there is nothing wrong with assisted suicide, just as I think there is nothing wrong with guns or cars. I am just exploring how the use of AS in a crime/breach of contract would factor in.

      3. Now that’s a loan I would gladly take on, if it kept me from dying.

    6. This is how you troll. Take note.

      1. Trolls go up, not down. You troll to me, I troll to my superior and so on. Trolls always go up, not down.

    7. What are you going to do to someone who kills themselves illegally while in debt?

      1. That’s when our services are needed…

      2. That’s what an estate tax is for.

    8. At least according to lots of fiction that I’ve read, suicide used to be the honorable way out of debts that you couldn’t pay.

      And I think Paul is right that if you have debts and assets that could pay them off, they will get paid when you die. IANAL. Could be wrong.

    9. How does life insurance work? I have a good bit of it (mostly paid for by my employer). If I decide to off myself, will my beneficiaries be paid?

      1. No.

        1. Some policies have a 2-year exclusion period.

  9. Assisted suicide bans are a second order effect. If you didn’t have to get a prescription for a drug to end your life and your wishes about your body would be honored by the state (ie not charging your spouse with murder for handing you a pill you asked for), then the whole problem goes away.

    1. Not quite. As it is now, even if you can acquire the drugs or whatever you are going to use, you still pretty much have to die alone, or expose your loved ones to prosecution for allowing you to kill yourself.

      Doctor assisted suicide shouldn’t be necessary and wouldn’t if you could just buy whatever you want. But the law still needs to change to allow other people to be present when someone ends their life without having a duty to stop it.

      1. does California law impose an affirmative duty to stop suicide?

  10. OK, can someone explain this provision of the bill to me?

    “443.10. (a) A provision in a contract, will, or other agreement, whether written or oral, to the extent the provision would affect whether a person may make or rescind a request for aid-in-dying medication, is not valid.

    “(b) An obligation owing under any currently existing contract may not be conditioned or affected by a qualified individual making or rescinding a request for aid-in-dying medication.”

    It seems they’re trying to override valid legal instruments in the interest of promoting suicide. Am I understanding this correctly? And how does the constitutional provision that no state shall pass a law to impair the obligation of contracts, apply in this situation?

    1. I’d guess those provisions have to do with insurance contracts more than anything else (so you wouldn’t have to get more or less based on taking this option or not).

      The Contracts Clause ship sailed a long time ago, the idea now is that when you make a contract under state law it’s implied that your contract will have to be in compliance with that law, and that’s so if the law changes too.

      1. Imagine an insurance policy which said they would pay X amount, but if you did not avail yourself of options which would lessen the overall costs they would pay a different rate. If an insurance company were to argue that now that this option is legal a person not taking it means this is triggered, that would push people to make this decision, and I think the law is trying to prevent that.

        Likewise, if there is a provision in a life insurance contract conditioning benefits on voluntary suicide that would push people not to take the option. So I imagine the provision addresses things like both scenarios.

      2. So insurance companies can’t sell life insurance unless they’re ready to pay out the same amount for suicide as for getting run over by a truck?

        And companies which have *already* sold life insurance policies with a no-suicide clause are required to ignore those clauses?

        1. It’s hard for me to see how insurance companies would save money on a life insurance policy because the insured *refused* to commit suicide.

          And if there was such a possibility, the answer to me would be to keep suicide illegal so the insurance company wouldn’t have the excuse to pressure people into suicide.

          1. Correction: “It’s hard for me to see how insurance companies would save money on a life insurance policy because the insured committed suicide.”

            1. Yeah, if you’re “terminal” and thus eligible for assisted suicide, that policy is going to pay pretty soon regardless.

              Of course, life insurance is predicated on paying later rather than sooner, so there’s that.

            2. I don’t think it would be life insurance companies in that situation, but health insurance.

        2. Probably so. It actually makes more sense for the ones that have made the contract in the past when this was illegal, imo. But people should, of course, be able to make contracts like you’re talking about going forward imo.

          But I’m betting it’s more aimed at one of your oft-stated concerns, namely that insurance companies might push of incent people toward this option.

          1. “But I’m betting it’s more aimed at one of your oft-stated concerns, namely that insurance companies might push of incent people toward this option.”

            In a *life* insurance policy?

            I thought that an early death by the insured would be *against* the insurance company’s interests?

            1. Note in my first scenario I said “insurance,” in my second I said “life insurance.”

              Life insurance would push people away from this, health insurance would push people toward it. The provisions seem to speak to both.

              1. OK, thank you for the clarification.

                Well then – apparently the legislators are aware that their bill would give health insurance companies an incentive to promote suicide by their insured, in the name of saving money.

                Now, this in itself seems to be a powerful argument *against* this bill.

                Unless we assume that, simply by requiring health insurers to ignore their own bottom line, we can avoid this problem.

                1. “Now, this in itself seems to be a powerful argument *against* this bill.”

                  Wait a minute, I thought you were all for getting out of the way of people making contracts 😉

                  1. When it comes to people being incented not to take this option because their life insurance will be incentivized to penalize them for it, you were worried about the freedom to make such contracts and have them honored.

                    But when it comes to people being incented to take this option because their health insurance will be incentivized to penalize them for not doing so, you’re like ‘whoooa, wait a minute!’

                  2. So I don’t want to allow contracts which encourage suicide. I thought this was *already* the law, and existing contracts were drawn up with that understanding.

                    Anyway, let’s avoid a tedious argument and stipulate that I’m making an exception to my own principles. Shocking!

                    Based on your explanation, it seems the legislators are implicitly admitting that their bill would create incentives for health insurance companies to pressure their insured into suicide.

                    Unless we’re naive enough to assume that this can be prevented by telling insurers to ignore their own bottom line, then we’re dealing with an ominous development.

                    1. Of course, this bill would rewrite pre-existing contracts, whereas the existing law does not do so AFAIK. But let’s just agree that you caught me out in some sort of inconsistency.

                    2. I think the allowing existing contracts to be voided is actually more defensible. The state had taken that option off the table and deemed it illegal, contracts cannot be contrary to public policy.

                      Preventing contracts going forward, when everyone now knows this is a thing and it’s legal and available and can then negotiate with that in mind, that’s worse imo.

                    3. I didn’t think you were making an exception to your principles because I naturally assumed your stuff about honoring contracts was a pretext for your actual principle which is that suicide must be discouraged and the state should be involved in that. I get that, you think the state should push people to ‘choose life’ (or discourage them from ‘choosing death.’). I don’t agree of course, but I get it. But let’s not dress it up in a concern for freedom of contract or making people live with the contracts they sign.

                    4. So in other words, I don’t think you were being inconsistent, you were being consistent to your actual principle, just not your stated one.

                    5. Ah, Bo, you were doing so well, you had almost reached a certain degree of civility and accuracy, but now you’ve thrown it away!

                      You are certainly right to be embarrassed that your allies, who support legalized suicide, are willing to trample on the Constitution and trample on pre-existing contracts. So it’s hardly surprising that, like the squid, you squirt a bunch of ink over the subject to hide your embarrassment and blame me for bringing up the subject.

                      But to be clear – I didn’t advocate rewriting existing contracts. But you knew that.

                    6. pre-existing – that is, prior to the passage of the law, you dink.

                    7. Just restricting future ones

                    8. Bo, you have it takes to be a judge!

                      What do you call a lawyer with a two-digit I.Q.?

                      Your Honor!

                    9. have *what* it takes

                    10. Run Forrest run!

                    11. “But to be clear – I didn’t advocate rewriting existing contracts. But you knew that.”

                      Of course, the pre existing ones were precluded from incenting suicides but could disincent it

                    12. Speaking of incent, how’s your mother doing?

                    13. WWYBS?

                    14. Judge Bo at a judicial conference:


                    15. So I don’t want to allow contracts which encourage suicide.

                      Didn’t Congress already do this once, when they allowed the estate tax to lapse for a year before reinstating it?

    2. Seems like the opposite if anything. Not allowing contracts that provide any incentive for or against suicide.

    3. Criminy. Make your choice and deal with it.

      If your life insurance won’t pay, then you need to decide if its worth it to you to hang on and suffer so your family gets the money, or whether you are cool with giving up the money to make the pain stop.

      1. Do you feel that way in the other direction? For example if your health insurance says it would pay for less hospice or pallitative care if you didn’t take this option you’d be fine with that?

        1. Make your deal, and live, err, deal, with it. That’s all I’m saying.

          Naturally, I would expect that the premiums on the “kill yourself or else” policy would be lower, as it offers reduced benefits. If I decide to opt for the lower premiums, I really can’t complain, can I?

          1. Agreed, at least you’re consistent (glances at Eddie)

            1. All rise! The District Court of Chelm, Judge Bo presiding!


            2. Consistency is the hobgoblin of people who don’t constantly change their argument.

        2. For example if your health insurance says it would pay for less hospice or pallitative care if you didn’t take this option you’d be fine with that?

          One reason this seems so problematic is the level of regulation today that severely limits peoples’ choices on health insurance. We feel there is a compelling reason to interfere and restrict these contracts because individuals don’t have a lot of choice over which Health Insurance contract they get.

          Nevertheless, I don’t think this is THAT big of a deal.

          As RC said, this is really about the amount of benefits that your contract allows. Even today (or at least before Obamacare- I haven’t checked since) there are Health Plans with maximum lifetime benefits. Those could be seen as “Incentivizing Suicide” as a person with a long term, expensive-to-treat illness will find themselves running up against those limits and need to anticipate a new course of action.

  11. Reason TV on the fight for the right to die in Montana

    You gotta fight
    For your right
    To die in Montana!

  12. Why is additional legislation necessary for this? Just remove prescription laws from the books and this issue goes away.

    1. That doesn’t empower a professional class further, so that’s no good.

    2. Because your rights don’t exist absence of a legislative body and subsequent laws.

      Are you new here?

      1. *in the absence of*

    3. Sure, easy. While we’re at it, let’s cut 75% of the size of the Federal government, privatize the interstates and get rid of qualified immunity for police officers and prosecutors.

      See my comment above. Laws about suicide effectively mean that people who want to take their lives have to die alone.

  13. It’s not really ‘assisted suicide’ it’s along the lines of ‘we don’t care what you do.’ In other words the law relies on good actors doing honest things. Good luck with that.

  14. Here is a question: If more States enact assisted suicide legislation, will the Democrats and “Gun Safety[?]” groups continue to include suicides in “gun violence”?

  15. Purchasing a handgun increases the risk of suicide. So why not offer tax deductions for handgun purchases by suicidal people?

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