Capitol Alert

California assisted death advocates urge quicker implementation (video)

Allow assisted death sooner, California advocates urge

At a Dec. 10, 2015 press conference, advocates of assisted death urged California lawmakers to act.
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At a Dec. 10, 2015 press conference, advocates of assisted death urged California lawmakers to act.

Advocates for the dying on Thursday urged policymakers to start implementing a new law, currently on hold, that will allow terminally ill Californians to end their lives.

“There is still urgency around making this law available to people who need it,” Toni Broaddus, California Campaign Director for the pro-assisted death organization Compassion and Choices, said during a press conference.

Patients will have to wait months until they can begin obtaining life-ending medication. The law won’t take effect until 90 days after the end of an ongoing special legislative healthcare session, and it is unclear when that three-month period will commence.

Democratic leaders from both houses said they intended to keep the session open as they work on a deal to find new healthcare funding sources, the original reason for convening the conclave. A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said she hoped to close the session early in 2016.

Atkins “remains committed to seeing the (assisted death) law enacted,” spokesman John Casey said in an emailed statement, but “the primary focus of the special session was to find agreement on extending a healthcare tax and to provide additional funding for individuals with Developmental Disabilities.”

The delay reflects how lawmakers resorted to some procedural maneuvering to get the assisted death law passed. After an initial bill stalled before a key committee vote, with multiple lawmakers on the Assembly Health Committee saying they could not support it, proponents submitted a new bill under the special healthcare session.

The gambit worked, allowing the measure to circumvent the troublesome committee and advance to a floor vote. But the special session continues as compromises on funding have eluded lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert