October 13, 2015

Ending Life Is Great; Saving It, Not So Much

Gov. Brown vetoes a bill meant to save lives.

Just days after signing assisted suicide into law in California, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed “Right to Try” legislation. In other words, he told his citizens to drop dead. Right to Try is the idea that terminally ill patients should be able to access medicines that are certified as safe but have not yet survived the gauntlet of approval from the bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration. So if you are terminally ill and suffering in California, the governor thinks it’s a great idea for you to commit suicide with the help of your doctor. If, however, you wish to try all avenues to avoid suffering and extend your life, well, tough luck. Brown argued that the FDA already has a compassionate use program to meet this need, but it’s cumbersome to apply and very few people benefit from it. Brown’s seemingly clear preference for suicide here is not terribly compatible with Catholic teaching — a faith he loves to cite when it suits him. But California’s legislature passed the bill by large enough margins to override a veto, so we’ll see what happens.

On a final note, health care economics are going to play an increasing role in end-of-life decisions, and that may explain Brown’s move. Specifically, The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto observes, “What accounts for that inconsistency? Here’s one factor that may play a role: California is on the hook for millions of state employees’ and retirees’ generous medical benefits. When one of them receives a terminal diagnosis, it’s a lot cheaper to hasten his death than to attempt to prolong his life.”

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