California Bill Would Legalize Assisted Suicide, Schwarzenegger Undecided

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 9, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Bill Would Legalize Assisted Suicide, Schwarzenegger Undecided Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 9, 2004

Sacramento, CA ( — Two California legislators plan to introduce a proposal in the Golden State during the next legislative session that would make it only the second in the nation to allow assisted suicide.

Patty Berg, D-Santa Rosa, and Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, both state representatives, are drafting legislation that would be modeled after Oregon’s first-in-the-nation law authorizing the grisly practice.

The lawmakers say they should be able to get the legislation passed through the Democrat-controlled legislature.

Stuart Waldman, chief of staff for Levine, told the San Mateo County Times newspaper, "We wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think we could get it passed."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could then prove key, since he has not commented on whether he would sign such legislation if it lands on his desk.

Berg, who is the chair of the Assembly committee on aging, said, "We’re working closely with Oregon, and we’ve had a couple other states interested in working with us as well, because as California goes, so does the rest of the nation."

The legislation would face strong opposition from pro-life groups, Catholic organizations, and possibly from the state medical association. Similar doctors groups have opposed assisted suicide bills in other states.

California Medical Association spokesman Ron Lopp told the Times that his group has not taken a position on the proposed legislation, but said the organization opposes assisted suicide.

Berg and Levine will be joined in the effort by Portland-based Compassion in Dying, a group that supports assisted suicide and euthanasia.

The final outcome of assisted suicide in California, however, may depend on whether the Supreme Court steps into a legal battle between Oregon and the Bush administration.

Attorney General John Ashcroft, expected to leave the Justice Department in the next couple of months, ruled that the drugs used in assisted suicides in Oregon violate the Controlled Substances Act because they are not used for a medical purpose. All of the drugs used in the Oregon suicides are under federal regulations.

Oregon and assisted suicide advocates challenged the ruling, and the lawsuit is now headed to the Supreme Court.

Voters in Oregon initially approved its law in 1997 allowing assisted suicide and then voted down an effort to strike the law in 1998. Some 171 people have ended their lives under the law.

In Michigan and Maine, voters overwhelmingly disapproved assisted suicide proposals. Legislation to legalize the practice has failed in Hawaii, Wyoming and Vermont.

In a 1997 case, the Supreme Court ruled that no right to assisted suicide exists, but states could decide whether to allow assisted suicides to take place.

ACTION: Contact Governor Schwarzenegger and urge opposition to assisted suicide. Write him at: State Capitol Bldg., Sacramento, CA 95814, (p) 916-445-284, (f) 916-445-4633, (e) [email protected]

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Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger –