Another dozen states are expected to follow with similar legislation, including Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware and Missouri. The D.C. Council is considering a "death with dignity" proposal introduced last week by council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, and the New Jersey Assembly passed an Oregon-style bill in November.
"We have a goal of 10 in 10. In the next 10 years, we're anticipating having 10 more states," said George Eighmey, a former Oregon state legislator who serves as vice president of the Death with Dignity National Center in Portland, Oregon. "It's sort of like the other social movements that are out there — the gay rights movement, the legalizing marijuana movement. All those things get to a critical mass and once they get to that critical mass, you start seeing other states get on board very quickly," said Mr. Eighmey, who advised on the California bill.
Plugging Maynard's story behind the scenes was Compassion & Choices, a right-to-die group funded by liberal billionaire George Soros that emerged from the ashes of the now-defunct Hemlock Society.
After Oregon voters approved the Death with Dignity Act, the movement stalled. It took until 2008 for voters in a second state, Washington, to enact a similar law. In 2013, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law the Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act.
The Montana and New Mexico high courts have ruled that physicians may prescribe lethal drugs to the competent terminally ill. At the same time, state legislatures have snuffed dozens of right-to-die bills over the years, and Massachusetts voters defeated in November 2012 a "death with dignity" initiative by 51 percent to 49 percent. One big reason: The disabled community, led by groups such as Not Dead Yet, has mobilized against assisted-suicide measures, including the California bill, arguing that they are ripe for abuse.
"If this bill passes, some people's lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes and abuse," Marilyn Golden, senior policy analyst for the Disabled Rights Education & Defense Fund, said in a Wednesday statement. "No safeguards have ever been enacted or proposed that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone."
CMDA CEO David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics): “A tidal wave of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) legislation is hitting the shores of state capitals across the country. CMDA is tracking efforts in 23 states, not a dozen as this article reports. Last fall, I completed statewide speaking tours in Montana and New Jersey to train church leaders, healthcare professionals and community leaders for this battle. I’m representing you in radio, TV and print interviews as well responding to op-ed pieces. In New Jersey, I met with individual legislators and was invited to address the minority party caucus in the state assembly. I stood with disability rights and other activists to speak your concerns at a news conference in the state capital.
“In Montana, where there is no law legalizing it, Compassion & Choices (C&C) representatives showed up at four of the five cities where I spoke to challenge my points during the question and answer period. During the first night’s session, a physician heading a hospice organization proudly and publically announced that she was already prescribing lethal drugs to her patients.
“The poignant Brittany Maynard story received enormous positive media coverage, and C&C is now using Brittany’s husband to lobby legislators. Billionaire activist George Soros’ money is funding an enormous effort and I’m extremely concerned that a half dozen more states will legalize PAS this year.
“CMDA staff members cannot stem this tide alone. As Christian healthcare professionals, we must link arms to halt this flood. I’m asking you to step up and be part of a leadership team in your state if it is targeted. My staff and I will come alongside each team to train and give you the tools and direction needed for this battle. We will guide you each step of the way.
“Once PAS is legalized, I doubt it will ever be reversed. Now is the time to halt this evil tide that will affect you and your patients.
“All that is required for evil to win is for good men and women to be too busy to fight it. This is a battle we dare not lose.”
If you would like to help, contact Margie Shealy, who leads our state initiatives, at Margie.Shealy@cmda.org or call 423-844-1000.
State Legislative Issues
Kara Tippets Interview
CMDA Resources on physician-assisted suicide