Bioethics News

California prepares for assisted suicide of patients in mental hospitals

California’s new End of Life Option Act, which permits assisted suicide, has some disturbing consequences, writes Wesley J. Smith in First Things. According to recently passed regulations terminally ill patients in mental hospitals have a right to request assisted suicide.

Under the Act, a lethal drug can be prescribed only “if the patient is not suffering from impaired judgment due to a mental disorder.”

Unless the patient is forcibly confined in a mental hospital and probably pumped up with powerful drugs. In that case, the regulations specify that:

A terminally ill patient, as defined by the End of Life Option Act, may petition the superior court for access to participate in activities under the End of Life Option Act by requesting release from the custody of the Department of State Hospitals from the court. If the court orders release from the custody of the Department of State Hospitals, the Department of State Hospitals shall release the patient to the ordered entity or person.

Furthermore, if a patient is too dangerous to be discharged, the state hospital must make assisted suicide available in the hospital.

Smith contends that the this is utterly inconsistent:

These are people denied their very freedom due to diagnosed severe mental disease! They are undoubtedly being treated with powerful psychotropic medications. In what universe could they possibly be deemed “not to be suffering from impaired judgment due to a mental disorder”?

The ironies are disturbing. For example, if a patient is hospitalized because he is acutely suicidal from deep depression, no court would free him for the purpose of committing suicide.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.