Christian Doctors Group Opposes California Assisted Suicide Bill

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 18, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 18
, 2005

Sacramento, CA ( — A Christian doctors group announced its opposition Monday to legislation in California that would legalize the practice of assisted suicide there. The Christian Medical Association said the bill gives more power to government than patients and called that a wrongheaded approach to treating the elderly and disabled.

Dr. David Stevens, CMA’s executive director, pointed to a comment from Assemblywoman Patty Berg, a Democrat who is one of the bill’s sponsors. Berg commented that her legislation "is about whether you will uphold our civil rights to privacy."

"The truth is that this bill establishes a dangerous right to privacy for the government," Stevens rebutted. "As in Oregon, the California assisted suicide bill includes a state secrecy clause that prevents the public, the media or watchdog groups from reviewing the evidence."

Stevens points to language in Berg’s bill saying that information collected by the state about those patients who kill themselves under the law "shall not be a public record and shall not be made available for inspection by the public."

Instead, California’s health department will prepare an annual report with the information it feels should be released to the public.

To Dr. Stevens, that means details about abuse or failed suicides may not be revealed or important details may be withheld.

"So of course every year the state will, as in Oregon, trot out sanitized statistics that no one can dispute because state bureaucrats keep the details secret," Stevens explained. "If you want to give more power to the state and less power to citizens, this is the way to do it."

"How many governors or health department bureaucrats are going to call a news conference to admit that under its ineffective laws and shoddy oversight, its citizens choked to death, lingered on for days after taking lethal pills, or were put to death without their consent," Stevens asked.

Stevens pointed to data from the Netherlands, where euthanasia is legal, showing a high number of failures.

Three reports from the European nation have documented that 18-25% of the patients who take lethal drugs prescribed by Dutch physicians do not die from the pills.

The same dose of the same drug is used in Oregon, but Stevens says Oregon officials have yet to acknowledge any failures other than a recent patient who lived after consuming the suicide drugs.

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