CBS Touts Assisted Suicide on Brink of Passage in California; Barely Covers Pro-Life Side

On Thursday, the CBS Evening News pushed a heavily slanted report on assisted suicide a day before the California State Senate will vote on whether or not to legalize the matter in the Golden State that would be modeled after Oregon’s law allowing doctors to provide lethal medication to extremely ill patients. 

In the three-minute-and-three-second segment, only 32 seconds were devoted to the pro-life cause against euthanasia that chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook ruled will not be settled anytime soon.

Fill-in anchor Jim Axelrod led into LaPook’s report by touting the upcoming debate in the Democratically-dominated state:

The California Senate is expected to vote tomorrow on whether to give terminally ill patients the right to end their lives with a doctor's help. Four states currently allow this. California's bill is based on an Oregon law which authorizes doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to patients expected to live less than six months.

Saving the other side for the final moments of his piece, LaPook first spotlighted two families supporting the legislation with one woman who’s sued California to end her life after becoming stricken with cancer that’s “invaded her colon, lungs, and liver.”

LaPook also spoke with the widower of Brittany Maynard, Dan Diaz, as he’s “quit his job and became a full-time advocate for the right-to-die movement in California” following Maynard’s decision to move to Oregon so she could end her life.

Only after five soundbites from Diaz (and another from the late Maynard in a video) did LaPook turn to someone against assisted suicide: “Marilyn Golden is a disability rights advocate and part of a coalition of medical and religious groups who oppose the bill.”

Golden’s lone clip featured her explaining that: “If it ensured, denied or merely delays someone's expensive, life-sustaining treatment, they are being steered towards hastening their deaths. Do we really think insurers will do the right thing or the cheap thing?”

However, the focus shifted right back to Diaz and then ended with LaPook closing things out by promoting Diaz’s hopes that “this doesn’t stop in California” and “this option [be] available for  terminally ill patients across the country.”

Only at the end of his report did LaPook offer invoke both sides in the same sentence: “At the same time, there are people on the other side of this issue who feel just as strongly, so we have certainly not heard the end of this debate.”

The relevant portions of the transcript from the CBS Evening News on September 10 can be found below.

CBS Evening News
September 10, 2015
6:41 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Right to Die]

JIM AXELROD: The California Senate is expected to vote tomorrow on whether to give terminally ill patients the right to end their lives with a doctor's help. Four states currently allow this. California's bill is based on an Oregon law which authorizes doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to patients expected to live less than six months. Dr. Jon LaPook takes a closer look. 

DR. JON LAPOOK: After four years of radiation, chemotherapy, and multiple surgeries, 51-year-old Elizabeth Wallner is still fighting cancer that has invaded her colon, lungs, and liver. 

ELIZABETH WALLNER: Well, I call it whack-a-mole cancer now because we beat it back and it pops up somewhere else. 

LAPOOK: She's also fought the State of California, suing for the right to end her life when she chooses. 

WALLNER: I've experienced just unimaginable pain and fear[.]

(....)

LAPOOK: Last year, Diaz's wife, Brittany Maynard, became the face of the right-to-die debate. She was diagnosed with brain cancer at 29, then moved with her husband from California to Oregon. 

(....)

DIAZ: She was simply saying it's ridiculous that as Californians, we have to leave home, drive 600 miles north, in the middle of her being told that she is dying from a brain tumor? Nobody should have to do that.

(....)

LAPOOK: He quit his job and became a full-time advocate for the right-to-die movement in California. In Oregon, from 1998-2014, more than 125,000 patients died from cancer. 668 took a physician-prescribed lethal dose of medication. 

DIAZ: You apply for that medication, you secure you put it in the cupboard and you keep fighting. You just have that there as a last resort. 

LAPOOK: Marilyn Golden is a disability rights advocate and part of a coalition of medical and religious groups who oppose the bill. 

MARILYN GOLDEN: If it ensured, denied or merely delays someone's expensive, life-sustaining treatment, they are being steered towards hastening their deaths. Do we really think insurers will do the right thing or the cheap thing? 

(....)

LAPOOK: Diaz told me, for him, this doesn't stop in California. He'd like to see this option available for terminally ill patients across the country. At the same time, there are people on the other side of this issue who feel just as strongly, so we have certainly not heard the end of this debate. 

AXELROD: Dr. Jon LaPook with some powerful reporting. Jon, thank you very much.

NB Daily Culture/Society Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Media Bias Debate Bias by Omission Liberals & Democrats CBS CBS Evening News California Video Government & Press Dr. Jon LaPook Jon LaPook Jim Axelrod Brittany Maynard
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