California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is currently participating in confirmation hearings to join the Biden administration as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Though Becerra has already come under heavy fire from pro-life groups for his attacks on pro-life journalists and pregnancy resource centers, another troubling issue has arisen: Becerra’s support for assisted suicide in California.
In 2015, California legalized assisted suicide, despite opposition from both religious and disability rights groups. Almost two years after it took effect, however, Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia overturned the law, pointing out the bill was shoved through a special session that was meant to be dedicated to Medicare funding. A group of doctors sued to overturn the law, and applauded Ottolia’s decision.
Becerra, however, vowed to appeal immediately, and in a statement, said, “We strongly disagree with this ruling and the state is seeking expedited review in the Court of Appeal.” Within five days, Becerra filed an appeal, which was ultimately successful — and praised the legalization of assisted suicide in California again.
“This ruling provides some relief to California patients, their families, and doctors who have been living in uncertainty while facing difficult health decisions,” Becerra said at the time. “Today’s court ruling is an important step to protect and defend the End of Life Option Act for our families across the state.”
Yet what Becerra didn’t acknowledge is how much this put vulnerable Californians at risk.
In less than two years of legalization, over 100 people took their own lives in California, and even worse, people found themselves seemingly pressured into the act. Reports surfaced of California insurance companies refusing to pay for a patient’s life-extending treatment, and instead, offering to pay for assisted suicide.
California resident Stephanie Packer experienced this firsthand as she tried to fight cancer. “As soon as this law was passed, patients fighting for a longer life end up getting denied treatment, because this will always be the cheapest option,” she said, adding that there was an immediate morale change after assisted suicide was legalized in cancer support groups. “It makes terminally ill patients feel ‘less than,’ that they are not worthy of that fight, that they’re not worth it.” Patients, Packer said, felt like extending their lives wasn’t worth the effort or expense anymore, when they could die quickly and easily instead.
With an assisted suicide advocate in such an influential federal position, these dangerous issues could become a nationwide problem, instead of just in select states.
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