California budget: $2.3 million for assisted suicide drugs for poor
April 19th, 2016
By California Catholic Conference
Lawmaker proposes hotline to help people commit suicide
Without fanfare or announcement, Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2016 budget recommends $2.3 million to allow California to purchase lethal drugs for Medi-Cal patients who want their physician to help them commit suicide. California’s assisted suicide law is scheduled to take effect June 9.
California would pay an estimated $5,400 per patient just for the drugs yet Medi-Cal patients still have no access to palliative care which is designed to improve the quality of life for patients and their family facing serious illnesses. Proponents of the assisted-suicide law insisted during last year’s debate that the lethal dose of drugs was not intended to save Medi-Cal costs yet lawmakers passed the legislation in a special session called specifically to address a Medi-Cal deficit.
The California Department of Health Care Services proposes spending $2.3 million to help an estimated 443 Medi-Cal patients end their own life with the cooperation of a doctor. The state spends $4.6 million annually for 10 suicide-prevention hotlines in California.
Analysts arrived at the projected number of Medi-Cal lethal drug prescriptions by using the assisted suicide rate in Oregon as a basis.
Legalizing doctor-prescribed suicide may generate a “copy-cat phenomenon” increasing suicide rates overall. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates in Oregon increased by 49 percent between 1999 and 2010 – compared to 28 percent nationally.
The cost estimate also suggests the state of California will pay for the two required doctor visits to obtain the lethal drugs. However, it predicts and budgets that only nine of the expected 443 cases will be sent for mental health evaluations since none is required by the new law.
In addition, Assembly Member Susan Eggman, D-Stockton – the principal author of the assisted-suicide legislation – has introduced AB 2810 which would also authorize the funds.
Proponents are asking for almost $250,000 to hire staff to clarify regulations on the assisted-suicide law. Those rules will not be completed until after the law goes into effect on June 9. That means doctors can start prescribing life-ending drugs before the final regulations are even written. Finally, the DHCS is requesting $323,000 for creation of a secure database.
In addition, one of the original authors of the bill, state Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, has proposed a toll-free number for the public to find out how to arrange suicide with the help of a doctor. No estimate of the cost is available.
To take action, http://cqrcengage.com/cacatholic/action
The California Catholic Conference is the public policy arm of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops. Website is cacatholic.org
From April 21, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.