California Disability Groups Oppose Assisted Suicide Legislation

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 31, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Disability Groups Oppose Assisted Suicide Legislation Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 31, 2005

Sacramento, CA ( — Disability rights groups in California have come out against legislation that would make the state only the second in the nation to legalize assisted suicide. They say the measure would encourage disabled people to kill themselves rather than seeking helpful medical care of pain management.

Cheryl Bergan, a public policy analyst with the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, said she thinks Assembly Bill 654 is severely flawed.

"The problem is you can’t make mistakes," she told the Record-Bee newspaper. "If someone dies, you can’t go back and say, ‘Let’s fix that.’"

Bergan told the paper that the bill allows people to request an assisted suicide if they have less than six months to live, but pointed out that doctors aren’t always accurate on such predictions.

"We know from the perspective of people with disabilities that many, many times they’re told they’re going to die within a certain period of time and they don’t," she said. "The accuracy of trying to predict end of life is doubtful."

Paul Longmore, director of the Institute of Disability Studies at San Francisco State University, has studied assisted suicide and agrees with Bergan’s concerns. He told the Record-Bee that people who normally seek assisted suicide have been "badly abused by the system."

For example, one man who sough an assisted suicide never received the state support he was entitled to and instead of living independently, he was forced into a nursing home.

Advocates of assisted suicide "ignored the social factors and said these guys want to die because they don’t want to live with their disabilities," Longmore said. "And the activists, like me, said these guys want to die because they’ve been mistreated by the system."

Longmore also told the Record-Bee that he worries insurance companies and health care plans will push for assisted suicide as a more economical alternative to funding extensive end-of-life care or care for the disabled.

"It’s described as autonomy, freedom of choice, self-determination," Longmore said of assisted suicide. "The question that needs to be asked is — if you don’t have access to other types of care, what kind of options are you going to have?"

Assemblywoman Patty Berg and Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, both Democrats, are the key sponsors of the bill.

In April, the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved the measure on a 5-3 vote with a Democrat joining two Republicans to vote against it.

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.

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 –