During his first gubernatorial campaign, now-Gov. Gavin Newsom made a truly shocking — and horrifying — admission.
Newsom told a reporter from the New Yorker that in 2002, when he was on San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, his 55-year-old mother, who had breast cancer, called to tell him that she had chosen to die by assisted suicide. (“In May, 2002, his mother decided to end her life through assisted suicide,” the New Yorker reports.)
Newsom wasn’t there to pick up the phone, though, because of his political duties.
“She left me a message,” explained Newsom, “because I was too busy: ‘Hope you’re well. Next Wednesday will be the last day for me. Hope you can make it.’”
The New Yorker reports that Newsom said this: “The night before we gave her the drugs, I cooked her dinner, hard-boiled eggs, and she told me, ‘Get out of politics.’ She was worried about the stress on me.”
“The night before we gave her the drugs”?
Did Newsom admit to euthanizing — that is, killing — his own mother? Was he a part of the we who gave her the drugs? Drugs that ended her life?
Because giving her lethal drugs would be murder.
“If an assistant participates affirmatively in the suicide, for instance by pulling the trigger or administering a fatal dose of drugs, courts agree that the appropriate charge is murder,” explained a 1986 article in the Columbia Law Review.
California does have a separate law that makes it a felony to “aid, or advise, or encourage” another person to commit suicide. (“Every person who deliberately aids, or advises, or encourages another to commit suicide, is guilty of a felony.”) This law was amended after California legalized assisted suicide in 2016 to state that actions which are compliant with that law, the End of Life Option Act, will not be prosecuted under it. (“A person whose actions are compliant with the provisions of the End of Life Option Act (Part 1.85 (commencing with Section 443) of Division 1 of the Health and Safety Code) shall not be prosecuted under this section.”)
That raises the question of whether assisting a suicide in California outside of the bounds of the End of Life Option Act, as was the case with Newsom’s mother, should be prosecuted under the law specifically against “aid[ing], or advis[ing], or encourag[ing]” a suicide or homicide laws.
U.S. state courts have typically followed the guidance from the 1953 Oregon case State v. Bouse, which says that homicide statutes should be used over assisted-suicide statutes “where a person actually performs, or actively assists in performing, the overt act resulting in death, such as shooting or stabbing the victim, administering the poison…”
If Newsom was truly part of the “we” in the “we gave her the drugs,” then perhaps the homicide statute should be relevant here.
If Newsom did not help administer the drugs himself and was merely present and encouraging at what he says was his mother’s suicide, he could be criminally liable under California’s law against “aid[ing], or advis[ing], or encourag[ing]” a suicide.
In 1975, a California man “stood by while his wife committed suicide,” and, though the man was not charged, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office “warned that helping another person commit suicide was still violation of the law.” The law referred to here is the one against “aid[ing], or advis[ing], or encourag[ing]” a suicide.
The obituary for Tessa Newsom, Newsom’s mother, says that she died in San Francisco, California. It does not mention euthanasia.
It’s certainly possible that the New Yorker inaccurately reported Newsom’s statements. It’s also possible that Newsom said “we gave her the drugs” even though he participated in no such thing. But all of that is unclear.
The American Spectator asked Gavin Newsom’s press office to clarify Newsom’s comments to the New Yorker, and, though the office responded to other inquiries, it did not respond to this one.
In California, where assisted suicide is legal, attitudes toward it are positive, and Newsom is the governor, it is highly unlikely that Newsom would ever be charged in connection with his mother’s death. Moreover, Newsom’s statements about his mom’s suicide have been public information for over four years — a period of time during which Newsom has been elected governor of California twice (and easily survived a recall).
Californians don’t care about Newsom’s claimed connection to his mother’s death. Either that or they haven’t heard about it. At the time the New Yorker article came out, it garnered little attention. Wesley J. Smith of the Discovery Institute published a post on National Review’s blog titled “Gavin Newsom Helped Mother’s Assisted Suicide.” Smith noted simply, “Awful.”
But if Newsom does try for higher office or federal office, his mother’s death could be an issue for the American people. Not all people in the South or the Midwest are OK with giving your mother a big dose of morphine to send her off to her death.
Newsom told the New Yorker reporter, Tad Friend, that he saved his mother’s voicemail in which she tells him that she is planning assisted suicide on a cassette tape. He said, “[T]hat’s how sick I am.”
“I have PTSD,” Newsom continued, “and this is bringing it all back.”
Tessa Newsom’s story is tragic. Her father (Newsom’s grandfather) shot himself to death in front of her and her sister.
“My grandfather committed suicide, but not before putting his daughter — my mother — and her twin against the fireplace and saying he was going to blow their brains out,” Newsom told the New Yorker. “That’s how I grew up. That’s how I found out about guns.”
What Newsom took from his family’s tragic experiences with suicide was a desire to make it easier for people to commit suicide.
In 2021, Newsom signed a bill amending the End of Life Option Act, which relaxed requirements for assisted suicide in California. Specifically, the waiting period between the first and second oral request has been shortened to 48 hours, and patients are no longer required to make a final attestation of their decision.
Many disabilities-rights activists opposed these changes, believing them to eliminate safeguards that worked to ensure that there are no coerced requests for assisted suicide.
When The American Spectator asked the governor’s press office what Newsom is doing to protect the rights of disabled people under the assisted-suicide law, the office said, “We have nothing to add at the moment.”
While the question of Newsom’s involvement in his mother’s death will likely remain a mystery, Newsom’s political efforts to make it easier for people to commit suicide speak for themselves.