Capitol Alert

AM Alert: California lawmakers will pursue assisted suicide bill

This undated photo provided by the Maynard family shows Brittany Maynard, the terminally ill California woman who moved to Portland, Ore., to take advantage of Oregon's Death with Dignity Act.
This undated photo provided by the Maynard family shows Brittany Maynard, the terminally ill California woman who moved to Portland, Ore., to take advantage of Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. The Associated Press

Is it an act of compassion to offer terminally ill Californians the option of aid in dying, or a moral and ethical breach of a doctor’s duty fraught with opportunities for abuse?

That enduring debate was raised again last fall when Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old East Bay woman suffering from a brain tumor, made public her decision to end her life in Oregon, where assisted suicide has been legal for 20 years.

Advocates argue that the time has come for California to follow suit. While several previous efforts have failed after intense lobbying by opponents, most recently in 2007, public support may be tipping in favor of a “death with dignity” law.

Getting a bill through the Legislature will be a challenge, however. The California Medical Association, which considers physician-assisted suicide a violation of doctors’ fundamental “do no harm” tenet, remains a powerful potential opponent of such legislation, as does the Catholic Church, while disability activists have raised concerns about vulnerable patients being coerced into choosing death.

State Sens. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, and Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, nevertheless will try this session. Joined by Maynard’s widower, Dan Diaz, and mother, Debbie Ziegler, they plan to introduce an end-of-life options bill at 1:30 p.m. in Room 1190 of the Capitol.

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NOW UC ME: The University of California Board of Regents gathers this week for the first time since approving a potential 28-percent tuition hike over the next five years unless the state kicks in more money. In the interim, Brown unveiled his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, which holds the line on UC funding, contingent upon a tuition freeze. There will be much for the regents to discuss when they meet, 8:30 a.m. at UCSF/Mission Bay in San Francisco, including a committee, composed of Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano, to review the university’s cost structure, as well as a plan to tie coach bonuses to student athletes’ academic performance and recently unveiled criteria for the federal colleges ratings system.

UNITED FRONT: Today marks the fifth anniversary of the controversial Citizens United decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not restrict independent political spending by corporations. 99Rise, the activist group that caused a stir last summer when they camped out at the Capitol to get “big money” out of politics, will rally against the decision with a march from Cesar Chavez Plaza to the Capitol at noon.

RAISING THE PROFILE: Empowering Pacific Islander Communities and Asian Americans Advancing Justice present a new report highlighting the policy needs of California’s often-overlooked Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations, 10 a.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol.

READ MORE: Brittany Maynard’s death could spur action on assisted suicide in California

Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.

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