California Legislation Expands Access to Assisted Suicide

A new bill from California would expand the state’s assisted suicide measures to allow individuals to end their lives without being previously diagnosed with a terminal disease, such as those with early or mid-stage dementia.

The bill, CA SB1196, changes the definition of “terminal disease” to “grievous and irremediable medical condition.”

Non-residents of the state may also travel to California to obtain assisted suicide.

California Democratic State Sen. Catherine Blakespear, the bill’s sponsor, told Politico that the legislation is about “personal autonomy and making decisions about your own exit from your one precious life on your own terms.”

Blakespear similarly told The Sun, “Nearing your end-of-life elicits strong emotions and is a human experience we will all inevitably encounter,” adding, “The intention behind the End of Life Option Act is to provide those nearing their end-of-life with medical autonomy that best suits their needs—not mine or yours, but their specific needs during this personal moment.”

Both the original and updated bill require the individual seeking assisted suicide to make two requests at least 48 hours apart.

According to the bill’s fact sheet, the legislation addresses patients who “may lose their ability to hold a cup or swallow, and may not have the strength and coordination to use a syringe,” therefore being unable to obtain assisted suicide.

Under the new provisions, an individual may receive “aid-in-dying medicine” through an “intravenous infusion that is self-administered by the patient.”

In total, eleven U.S. states offer assisted suicide, including California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

report from the Vermont Department of Health revealed that the number of individuals who have died from assisted suicide has quadrupled in the last two years.

There were 85 death events between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2023.

Of those events, 72 individuals died from “patient choice,” 8 died from underlying disease, 3 individuals passed away from “unknown mechanisms,” and 1 individual passed from something “other.”