Capitol Alert

How many people have taken advantage of California’s assisted death law?

Deborah Ziegler holds a photo of her daughter, Brittany Maynard, with her husband Gary Holmes, after the California Senate passed SB 128, a bill that would allow physicians to assist in the death of terminally ill patients, on May 4, 2015.
Deborah Ziegler holds a photo of her daughter, Brittany Maynard, with her husband Gary Holmes, after the California Senate passed SB 128, a bill that would allow physicians to assist in the death of terminally ill patients, on May 4, 2015. The Sacramento Bee file

Few California politics stories in recent years were bigger, or more intensely personal, than the legalization of assisted death. Even Gov. Jerry Brown reflected on his own mortality, and the comfort he would find in the bill’s options, when he signed it into law in October 2015.

Since it took effect last June, terminally ill adults with less than six months to live have been able to seek lethal medication from a physician. So, a year later, how many have?

We won’t know exactly until next month, when the California Department of Public Health is set to release its first annual statistical report on the number of assisted death prescriptions, how many patients used them and how many doctors wrote them.

But Compassion & Choices, the advocacy group behind the law, said they have already consulted with at least 504 Californians who went on to receive a prescription. That alone is more than a quarter the number of patients – 1,749 – that have ever sought lethal medication in Oregon, the first state to legalize assisted death in 1997; it’s likely that many more have undertaken the process without the organization’s help.

Compassion & Choices released the figure Thursday to tout the success of the law ahead of its first anniversary on June 9. It remains a controversial issue nationally, with religious and disability rights groups raising moral objections and concerns that it could be abused to target the elderly, the poor and other vulnerable populations.

While dozens of states each year continue to introduce assisted death bills, only two more have passed – in Colorado and Washington, D.C. – since California, bringing the total to seven jurisdictions.

WORTH REPEATING: “P.S. Coal is not coming back.” - Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, saying in a statement that he is deeply disappointed by reports that Trump will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement

WORLDS APART: Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer was everywhere during the 2016 election cycle – or at least it felt like it – sparking speculation about his own political ambitions. He still hasn’t announced whether he’s running for governor of California, but the chatter is unlikely to diminish as he ramps up activity with the Fair Shake Commission, his project tackling the politically hot topic of income inequality and economic insecurity. The commission plans to release its latest policy report, 10 a.m. at Liberty Hall in Oakland, with a discussion featuring Steyer, the Center for American Progress’ Neera Tanden, former U.S. Rep. George Miller, PolicyLink CEO Angela Glover Blackwell, California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley and former California Finance Director Ana Matosantos.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: Brown says President Donald Trump’s position on climate change is backfiring.

WIDE DIVIDE: For years, California politicians have struggled with closing an academic achievement gap between black and Latino students and their Asian and white peers — a problem that only seems to be getting more vexing. So what are the most successful, and cost-effective, programs for improving the performance of minority and low-income students? George Farkas, a professor of education at UC Irvine, will review his research, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

MUST READ: Organized labor is squaring off with health care professionals over a bill to increase nursing staff at dialysis clinics

FALLING SHORT: The advocacy group Campaign for College Opportunity wants to increase degree attainment among California adults to 60 percent from 48 percent by 2025 — an ambitious vision that would require the state to produce an additional 1.7 million graduates over the next eight years. On that front, the organization argues, California is failing miserably: college readiness and affordability are mediocre, while attendance and completion are even worse. In a new report released today, the campaign is challenging California officials to “raise the grades.” It comes amid growing public and political frustration over tuition hikes and enrollment access for California high schoolers in the state’s public university systems.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

  Comments