Disability rights advocates sued Tuesday to overturn California’s physician-assisted death law, arguing that recent changes make it too easy for people with terminal diseases whose deaths aren’t imminent to kill themselves with drugs prescribed by a doctor.
California’s original law allowing terminally ill adults to obtain prescriptions for life-ending drugs was passed in 2016. Advocates say the revised version that took effect last year removes crucial safeguards and violates the U.S. Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles County, argue that life-ending drugs are more likely to be used by people with disabilities and racial and ethnic minorities because those groups are less likely to receive proper medical and mental health care. The advocates fear that vulnerable people could be pressured into taking their lives by family members or caretakers or feel pressure themselves because they don’t want to be a burden.
The lawsuit contends that California’s approach, known as the End of Life Option Act, harks back to the discredited practice of eugenics, which once sought to keep people with disabilities and other minority groups from reproducing.
The system “steers people with terminal disabilities away from necessary mental health care, medical care, and disability supports, and towards death by suicide under the guise of ‘mercy’ and ‘dignity’ in dying,” the suit argues. The terminal disease required for assistance is, by definition, a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it says….
People who choose to use drugs supplied by a doctor to kill themselves may not realize they could instead receive help managing their pain, potentially including sedation that can render them unconscious, said Ingrid Tischer, one of two individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
“It really does create two classes of people” based on whether they are perceived to be terminally ill, said the 57-year-old Berkeley resident. “One side gets [suicide] prevention, one side gets a [life-ending] prescription. And that is discriminatory….”
Full story at CaliforniaHealthline.org.