Human Exceptionalism

In California Assisted Suicide Advocates Again Undermine Medicine

For shame! Assemblywoman Patti Berg and Assemblyman Lloyd Levine are at it again in the California Legislature. Soon to be term limited out of office, desperate to pass a bill–any bill– that will open the door to assisted suicide/euthanasia, thwarted in their desire by a powerful and diverse strange political bedfellow coalition including disability rights activists, medical professionals, activists for the poor, pro lifers, and the Catholic Church, they have found a new way to undermine the delivery of proper medical care.

In place of assisted suicide, they now want to legalize doctors placing their patients into drug-induced comas and dehydrating them to death. Just as bad, they co-opt the good and proper medical practice of “palliative sedation,” which they redefine as a method of killing.

The bill is AB 2747. First, Berg and Levine define terminal illness as having one year or less to live–an extremely problematic matter since at that distance from death it can be very difficult to determine expected lifespan.

Then, comes the disgraceful redefinition of palliative sedation, which is properly used in rare cases at the very end of life for irremediable suffering such as agitation, at a time in which the patient generally dies of the disease, not denial of sustenance.

442 (d) “Palliative sedation” means the use of sedative medications to relieve extreme suffering by making the patient unaware and unconscious, while artificial food and hydration are withheld, during the progression of the disease leading to the death of the patient.

Then, this is tied with a diagnosis of terminal illness, which you will recall is now a 1 year window:

442.5 (5) The patient’s right to comprehensive pain and symptom management at the end of life, including, but not limited to, adequate pain medication, treatment of nausea, palliative chemotherapy, relief of shortness of breath and fatigue, VSED [voluntary self starvation and dehydration], and palliative sedation.

So, what this bill would do is allow people with a one year life expectancy to request to be put into a coma by their doctors for the purpose of being dehydrated to death. Proving the intent of the bill, AB 2747 requires that if a doctor doesn’t wish to comply with request, he or she must assist in transfer to a doctor who will:

442.7. If a physician does not wish to comply with his or her patient’s choice of end-of-life options, the health care provider shall do both of the following: (a) Refer or transfer a patient to an alternative health care provider. (b) Provide the patient with information on procedures to transfer to an alternative health care provider.

The medical profession should be up in arms. These petty politicians are corrupting medicine by establishing a false political definition for a proper palliative technique that, if passed, would result in terrible public confusion and distrust in palliative medicine overall. I repeat: For shame!