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Many LA Latinos are On Edge about State’s New Aid-in-Dying Law

LATINO PERSPECTIVE-Julie Watson from The Associated Press wrote and reported that California this month has become the latest state to allow the terminally ill to legally choose to end their lives, raising worries among some people in the state’s large Latino and African-American communities that poor people with serious illnesses could be pressured to take lethal drugs as a cheaper option to long-term care. 

Concern has surfaced across the Golden State, from primary care physicians and administrators of large hospital systems, to ethics professors and clergy. 

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, the highest-ranking Hispanic bishop in the nation, called the new law “a failure of solidarity” in a society where loneliness and isolation already prevail. 

But those fears were found to be unsubstantiated in a recently released study conducted by UCLA professor Cindy Cain with the department of health policy and management. 

Cain found that in states such as Oregon, which began implementing the law in 1997, the number of those who died with prescription assistance rose gradually each year, from less than 20 in 1998 to 105 in 2015. 

Most of those who chose to end their lives were 65 and older, white, had some college education; and more than 60 percent of them had private insurance. 

The data doesn’t support the idea that the passing of the aid-in-dying law will disproportionately affect the poor or vulnerable groups, Cain said. 

This spring, the national right-to-die advocacy organization Compassion & Choices named Latina, African-American and Filipina-American women to reach out to minority communities. The group also set up a bilingual hotline explaining the law and held meetings in largely Spanish-speaking areas such as California’s Central Valley. 

“We knew we would need to learn to talk about the issue around death and dying in a way that was not just recognizable to the white community,” said Toni Broaddus of Compassion & Choices. 

In an April 14 column in the Chicago Tribune, cancer patient Miguel Carrasquillo called on his fellow Latinos to “break the cultural taboo of discussing death and medical aid in dying.” 

He called himself the “Latino Brittany Maynard,” a reference to the 29-year-old California woman who was dying of brain cancer when she moved to Oregon to access the lethal drugs in 2014. Her story galvanized support for the proposal that became the California law. Carrasquillo’s mother supported his fight for the option, but his father saw it as intervening in God’s work. 

Carrasquillo died of cancer in his native Puerto Rico, lacking the funds to move to a state with a right-to-die law. His mother promised him she would keep pushing for the practice so others do not have to suffer as he did. 

In California, before a doctor can prescribe lethal drugs, a patient 18 or older must make two oral and one written request. The law also requires a diagnosis that the person has less than six months to live and that the person can take the drugs without help from anyone. 

Life-ending drugs will be covered under MediCal, the state’s public insurance plan, but it limits coverage of outpatient palliative care consultations unless the person has stage IV cancer.

 

(Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader who serves as Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition and sits on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council representing Larchmont Village. He was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected]) Los Angeles Daily News staff writer Susan Abram contributed to this report.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.