Yesterday came news that supporters of the physician-assisted suicide bill that failed to make it out of the Assembly Health Committee were taking advantage of the special legislative session called by Gov. Jerry Brown to make an attempt to push a similar bill to the Assembly floor -- a sort of legislative end-around.
Brown said Tuesday through spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman that the session is not the appropriate venue to consider the issue. A better approach would be to reconsider previous legislation next year that is now stalled, she said. Brown called the special session to address funding for Medi-Cal, which the governor suggested is not sustainable.
So would Brown veto the bill if it passed in the special session? Hoffman didn't say.
The bill would allow doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients who request it, provided that patients are mentally competent and able to swallow the drugs themselves.
Sen. Bill Monning, D- Carmel and Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, said they decided to make another attempt at passing the legislation after watching two legal efforts — in San Diego and San Francisco — fail in the courts this summer. The two judges in the lawsuits seeking to protect medically assisted suicide as a constitutional right said it was beyond the jurisdiction of the court to rule on such life and death matters.
Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, said in a press release announcing the introduction of the bill that time is of the essence:
"We will not wait another year," Eggman said. "We will not wait for a ballot measure. There are people right now who are facing a terminal diagnosis, watching this fight, praying for our success and hoping to be able to take control of their lives through these reforms. They don't have another year to wait; they are counting on this bill, this year."
Opponents of physician-assisted suicide expressed dismay over the renewed effort.
"We’re shocked that they would use this legislative maneuver to jam through a bill that’s clearly a life and death matter for Californians,” Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund, told KQED's April Dembosky.
Tim Rosales, a spokesman for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, said: "It is particularly troubling that in this rush to judgment, proponents are linking this bill with health care financing. "That should be truly frightening to those on Medi-Cal and subsidized health care, who quite logically fear a system where prescribing suicide pills could be elevated to a treatment option."
The earlier bill stalled in the health committee after a small, unusual group of holdouts -- all Southern California Democrats and almost all Latino -- deprived the legislation of the 10 votes needed for passage.
The assisted suicide issue isn't the only one getting a second look in the special session. Several Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation that would define e-cigarettes as tobacco products and bring them under the state’s existing anti-smoking laws.
Jon Brooks, April Dembosky, John Myers, Marisa Lagos and the Associated Press contributed to this post.