California Assisted Suicide Proposal Faces First Vote Tuesday

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 11, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Assisted Suicide Proposal Faces First Vote Tuesday Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 11
, 2005

Sacramento, CA ( — A bill to make California the second state to allow assisted suicide receives its first vote Tuesday in a state legislative panel. The measure pits euthanasia advocates against a coalition of doctors, disability rights groups, and pro-life organizations.

Fifteen years ago, California voters rejected a ballot proposal to legalize assisted suicide and the prospects of the bill are up in the air.

That’s because the proposal has united a coalition of groups to fight it.

It faces moral opposition from the California Catholic Conference, disability rights groups say it would encourage suicide among the disabled and the California Medical Association also opposes it.

"The opposition doesn’t come from the right or the left. It’s coming from both and the middle," Tim Rosales, spokesman for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, told the Los Angeles Times newspaper. "Everybody has concerns on this bill."

Disability activists also worry that the legislation would encourage insurance and rug companies to "promote" assisted suicide as a way to manage costs. Marilyn Golden, policy analyst with the Disability Rights, Education and Defense Fund in Berkeley told the Times that treatments can cost tens of thousands of dollars while a prescription for the drugs to cause a suicide may be $50.

"We know how the profit motive intrudes into all areas that the healthcare system touches," she said.

Golden is also worried that some patients are misdiagnosed as terminal and would be encouraged by doctors to prematurely end their lives.

"Anybody who is misdiagnosed as terminal could make use of assisted suicide if the bill is passed," she told the Times.

The California Assembly Judiciary Committee will consider the legislation Tuesday. Assemblywoman Patty Berg and Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, both Democrats, introduced Assembly Bill 654.

Under the measure, two doctors much agree that the patient has six months or less to live, that the patient is competent to make the decision, and both physicians must submit reports to the state health department.

The patient must make two oral requests to allowed to kill himself and one written one.

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

California voters rejected an assisted suicide proposal by a 54 to 46 percent margin in 1992 and legislation to legalize it failed in 1999.

Proposals to legalize assisted suicide have failed in Hawaii, Maine, Vermont and Michigan in recent years.

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]

Related web sites:
California Pro-Life Council –
Euthanasia.Com –
International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force –