• Assisted suicide bill in Governor Jerry Brown’s hands

    Whether we like it or not, California, our most populous state, is the nose cone on the national rocket, and we are going to regret being asleep in the control center.

    Just one day after World Suicide Prevention Day — Sept. 10 — (how calculated was that?) both the United Kingdom and the California Senate weighed in on the responsibility of passing assisted suicide legislation. While the Parliament in the UK voted heavily against legalizing assisted suicide, the California Senate voted just the opposite, striking a staggering blow to CA Penal Code 401 that made “assisting, aiding, and encouraging” suicide a felony for 141 years.

    So goes California, so goes the nation. So goes the nation, some say, so goes the world.

    For my money, everyone in suicide prevention might as well go take a hike, for this move by the California Senate to strike down the old state law represents the abandonment of hope. Anyone legally hoping to prevent the predatory encouragement of someone else’s suicide has little to no-chance-in-hell to do so.

    All the keyboard warriors out there in social media-land might as well dump their advocacy pages and take up different causes other than suicide prevention. Protecting lions in Africa will be infinitely easier than protecting depressed kids or despondent adults from suicide predators. William Melchert-Dinkel and Michelle Carter will become visionaries of Free Speech courtesy of the state.

    “Ashers” at alt.suicide.holiday (unregulated suicide Usenet newsgroup) will be able to to encourage anyone “to catch the bus,” code phrase for killing yourself without fear of consequences.

    And what can be said, then, of the Hallidie Plaza, San Francisco, public suicide baiting-site of my son Dylan Yount’s death on Feb. 16, 2010?

    Will we say that the “sponsorship” of his suicide death by 24 uniformed San Francisco police officers might just be viewed legally, at long last, as mere entertainment from the “municipal facilitators” known as the SFPD? Certainly, their lawyers working in the city attorney’s office have been saying all along that their police only have to “watch” on the suicide attempt scene anyway.

    “Law” could become a brutal teacher, though — the cruelest martinet of all — with the clearest message in “modern” civilization: Some lives are not worth living.

    Not. Worth. Living.

    If we think we have been shocked by the abuses of Belgium’s assisted suicide laws where children and depressed people are frequently granted their wishes for dying “with dignity,” we may not yet have begun to envision the abuses that legalized suicide could create in our own country.

    Homeless people, the mentally ill, and the disabled — lives that have already been marginalized by a rising police state culture — will ultimately suffer first. Already serially brutalized or deemed as just “inconvenient” by others (read San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee here) — what superhuman advocate will be able to stand between the disenfranchised and the “right to die with dignity” group?

    California’s “right to die” bill AB X2-15, formerly CA Senate Bill 128, may well stand as a dystopian treatment to humanity’s shame, a Pandora’s Box too difficult to shut once it has been opened. Even though California lawmakers have given it only a 10-year shelf life before it would need to be “renewed” to continue, by then assisted suicide might well have become the law of the land.

    Whatever euphemism people use, suicide death means “unnatural” death, which brings us to the precipice of the terrible darkness in the death culture we are creating.

    There have always been silent rooms and maybe guilty thoughts from those standing next to the deathbeds of loved ones in the damp caves of earliest civilization until the abodes of now. There have always been men of medicine who have wielded “discretion” in their practice of their professional alchemy. And doctors have always been a reservoir of compassion tempered with their knowledge of human suffering. Pulling the plug is, after all, much older than electricity.

    Now, though, the government is about to get involved in a big way if California perhaps becomes the fifth state to legitimize suicide.

    The insurance companies will undoubtedly deploy government — and its attendant judiciary — to end up deciding which lives matter. While suicide has traditionally been regarded as a psychological illness or accident, two new components will be added to the mix — “expediency” and “productivity.”

    Then, the slippery slope everyone has been warning about becomes a reality and those standing around in those inevitable deathbed scenes could grow weary and “impatient” just like the “immediacy factor” that overtook the people yelling “JUMP!” in the suicide baiting crowd in San Francisco.

    Assisted suicide legitimizes killing yourself “expeditiously,” neatly and state-sponsored.

    I will pray for Governor Jerry Brown — who alone has the power to veto this horrible legislation — but I do not know if I believe in prayer any longer or even the expectation of human decency.

    Anyone pretending that suicide is so difficult is a liar. Taking your life is as easy as flipping a switch — 41,000 do it every year, one person every 12.8 seconds. The real challenge of human existence is how to help each other live well until the end.

    • MINUTES! Every 12.8 minutes someone dies by suicide in the United States! So sorry!

      • Madgew

      • September 12, 2015 at 12:39 pm
      • Reply

      Kathie, you know I support you 100% but I am in favor of this law. It is not a death panel but one for those who are terminally ill. I have had two parents and some friends who have been helped to die when their lives were truly not theirs anymore. They were in pain, unable to do anything on their own, waiting and hoping to die and the only way was to voluntarily stop eating and drinking. I have given my adult sons the power along time ago to pull my plug, involuntarily stop all nutrients and allow me to die in my own way on my own time. I truly don’t think this bill will allow people just to kill themselves at will. Sadly, in most cases we can’t stop suicide if the person is truly committed to suicided assisted death. Doctors of the terminally ill and hospice workers all over the world help people to die with dignity all the time. I have felt this way about my own life dunce I was 21 years old. What happened to Dylan was beyond tragic but this law is very different. I look at it as assisted death with dignity and without suffering. Everyone in my opinion is entitled to it. suicide and suicide baiting something far different.

    • I already knew this about you, Madge! I, too, have a DNR order and most everyone with any age has had some tragic experience with “brain death” or other end of life issues. I also agree that doctors have been helping folks “die with dignity” since the beginning of time.

      That being said, I think everyone knows I have dedicated the remainder of my life to suicide PREVENTION. I speak almost everyday with depressed and suicidal people who are already convinced that society is sending them the message that some lives do not matter as much as others.

      This is the primary reason I oppose government involvement in state-sanctioned death. Californians, themselves, have struggled with assisted suicide legislation for years. In 2005 & 2007 the measure failed in the legislature. In 1997 voters rejected it in the voting booth.

      I was appalled by the sneaky way it was re-introduced on Wednesday and on the final day of the session, Friday, in a bid to eliminate time for meaningful dialogue about one of the most important decisions ever. The “sunset” limitation of 10 years also seems like intellectual dishonesty to me.

      I know you are a voracious reader — and I am enclosing the URL address that you most certainly do not have to even look at — of a succinct look at why those interested in disability rights oppose assisted suicide (Democrats opposing other Democrats, if you will). The potential for abuse in assisted suicide death is enormous and the excesses in Belgium already are terrifying.


      I consider myself a liberal on every issue I can think of except assisted suicide death, and probably both of us are just as confounded by each other’s “misunderstanding”!! That being said, friends do not have to agree on every societal issue. Both of us, I believe, can appreciate, though, the ball being “thrown into the court” of Governor Jerry Brown. He can either sign this legislation OR give it to the voters in the next election.

      If I have offended you — or any other reader — I regret that, for this was never my intention. The anger I still feel about Dylan’s extreme suicide baiting death is either going to get “internalized” or “externalized.” CA Penal Code 401 has been my hope, what California Attorney General Kamala Harris has vowed to uphold.

      • Madge, forgive me, for my errors!! I just re-read all of this discussion. California voters rejected right to die legislation in 1992 not 1997. The significance of 1997 is that is when Oregon legalized it and the British Parliament rejected the 7th attempt in 60 years to legalize it. Also significant was that SCOTUS reversed Washington v. Gluckesberg and Quill v. Vacco, saying “our holding permits this debate to continue as it should in a democratic society.”

      • Maya Spier Stiles North

      • September 12, 2015 at 8:20 pm
      • Reply

      I live in Washington State and we have this law. Very few people have used it and those people must pass a rigorous set of evaluations. I hear you. I really do. But I have also held the mummified hand of a man dying of cancer who begged and pleaded with me to end it early because it hurt past calculation. No children will die in Washington State unless they are within 6 months of dying and they are old enough to know what they’re asking for. It’s not a tool of expediency. It should be used only gravely and with due and intense examination. But to expect the tithe of exquisite agony from the dying in order to ensure a depressed teenager doesn’t make that choice isn’t actually fair and it simply won’t work.

      • Thank you, Maya, for your comment. I think I hear you, too. The assisted suicide studies corroborate what you are saying about the terminally ill obtaining the suicide drugs but not always using them. The studies also indicate that the terminally ill are not worried as much about the impending pain they will suffer as they are about becoming a burden to their families (cue the vulture insurance companies who would rather spend $50 than $500,000. for typical end-of-life services).

        I have never held the hand of someone dying of cancer and begging for the sweet release of death or that of someone with a disordered mind begging the same, either. Human pain and suffering cover such a broad spectrum we barely understand.

        You write that the tithing of the “agony from THE dying” (my caps) is not worth it to ensure that “A depressed teenager” (my caps again) will not choose suicide. The unbiased truth is we do not understand mental pain and suffering as well as we do physical agony at this time. Also, since we were teenagers ourselves, we tend to look back and reflect that we know THAT EXPERIENCE. We are a little like people who think they understand the educational system because they have spent 12 years in school rooms!

        We tend to think of “mental” illness as something that people can “snap out of it” or even at the best, that it can be controlled. It is hardly “a” teenager any longer when suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds (CDC), the leading cause of death among gay and lesbian youth, the leading cause of death in the world for girls 15-19 (World Health Organization).

        I cannot imagine the pain and suffering of the schizophrenic, often coming into his illness at about this time. Would it be worse to be dying of a brain tumor OR to be trapped with the lifelong sentence of living with an irrational brain in control of you? The extremes of human pain and misery are almost impossible to contemplate!

        If we could take a yardstick and point from one end of it to its middle and say that the first area represented the range of physical pain and that from the middle to its other end represented the possible range of mental pain, I wonder if most of us in our lifetimes only experience “inches” away from the center? Yet, we know there are extremes of pain on both ends. We speak of high and low pain thresholds and tolerances all the time, yet who could possibly “rank” pain that is “past calculation”?

        We have been talking a long time now about the “quality” of life. Nancy Cruzan, Karen Ann Quinlin, Terry Schiavo were early household names in the first “death with dignity” discussions. So who is going to get the “suicide pills” now?

        Are we prepared to say that physical agony is worse than mental? That the suicidal should always be “helped” to live rather than die? Countries that have had euthanasia laws for a long time and being forced to recognize that “clinical” depression and mental illnesses can be EXTREME.

        Human suffering in our throw away culture means that we would like “a pill” as an easy end to it all when we have always had the power to do this for ourselves.

        When Robin Williams died, journalists were all against describing his suicide “method,” afraid this might inspire “contagion.” Seriously? A rudimentary science education gives children all the information they need to know to take their lives.

        I just hate that we are going to be in the business of saying that some lives are not worth living, officially — via our government. Not. Worth. Living. So, does suicide becomes a judgement call by society? My son’s suffering elicited a societal response and judgement call — when the crowd minimized his pain and urged him to jump!

        His death was the first I had ever witnessed in all my years (I had been inches from the center until then). I saw his death on film almost six months after he had died. Since then I have “watched” many other real deaths, for death is routinely memorialized on the Internet each day.

        It is difficult to articulate all this, and the positive aspects that might come out of this California decision — are both a renewed dialogue about what is important AND the “validation” that all human suffering HURTS, so we should not “minimize” any person’s pain (especially if we do not understand it).

        One more thing that strikes me as ironic are the “numbers” associated with this decision. There were 77 out of a possible 80 Assembly votes, a 43 to 34 decision with 3 abstaining (a nine person majority). In the Senate, the votes were 23 to 14 out of a possible 40, again with 3 abstaining and a nine person majority. These numbers are so small to speak for so many (my so goes California, so goes the nation argument)! This probably ensures that Governor Jerry Brown will likely veto the legislation so that right-to-life proponents CAN be bring it before the voters again as it was in 1992.

        As humans we are all grappling for the right answers. In Australia it is a crime to discuss or advise or assist suicide by telephone, email, Internet or fax. The UK axed assisted suicide the same day California passed it in a Hail Mary bid that bypassed the health committee that had stalled it just months prior.

        I have never been more troubled than I am now about the “sanctity” of human life.

      • Madgew

      • September 13, 2015 at 6:17 pm
      • Reply

      I understand your decision on this Kathie. Agree to disagree. Love you still just as much 🙂

      • Maya Spier Stiles North

      • September 14, 2015 at 9:30 pm
      • Reply

      I’m not sure you can be impartial about this and you have every right not to be. But I would far rather be helped to exit gently than to have to devise some savage end for myself. I HAVE held the hands of people dying in agony and that told me unequivocally that I will not allow myself to be forced down that path. Just because the terminally ill have the right to determine their own fate here in Washington State doesn’t mean we will go as far as Belgium has. I’m also not as married to the whole “sanctity of human life” thing. Among the horribly miserable humans I have seen was one of a pair of identical, 47 year old twin men who were terribly shorted of oxygen at birth. They were oversized fetuses who could pee, excrete, grind their teeth and scream in pain. What brutal cruelty was it that had the medical profession work to save these two? It was no kindness that they lived and when they died within hours of each other — at separate nursing homes — we were in tears of joy and relief for them. We simply cannot compare the terminally ill or those sentenced to a life of pure hell to a depressed or mentally ill person. It’s apples and wombats.

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