California Assisted Suicide Bill Halted in House, Moves to Senate

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 2, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Assisted Suicide Bill Halted in House, Moves to Senate Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 2, 2005

Sacramento, CA ( — Sensing they were unable to obtain enough votes to pass a bill legalizing assisted suicide in the state House, backers of the controversial legislation have taken their fight to the state Senate with the hopes of creating some momentum for the bill.

Assembly members Patty Berg and Lloyd Levine, both Democrats, said they would attach their measure to make California the second state to legalize assisted suicide to unrelated legislation that already passed the House.

"We’re not sure we’re going to get 41 votes," Levine said, even though Democrats control the state Assembly.

That way they avoid a Friday deadline requiring any bills surviving the legislative session to have cleared at least one chamber.

Should the Senate approve the measure, the state House must still approve the bill, but the move allows the two lawmakers more time to round up votes in the House.

"Continued debate in the Senate gives legislators the time they need to sift through the lies and scare tactics and get to the truth," Levine told the Associated Press.

Tim Rosales, a spokesman for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, a coalition of health, disabled and other advocates against the bill, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the move should "further galvanize the opposition."

Though the sponsors of the bill claimed to be just one or two votes away, Rosales said they were several votes from being able to pass the measure.

"We had them way short," he said. "They weren’t even close."

Leading advocates of the disabled have come out against the legislation this week.

Paul Longmore, director of the Institute of Disability Studies at San Francisco State University, has studied assisted suicide, and 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?"

The measure also faces strong opposition from pro-life groups, the California Catholic Conference, and the state medical association.

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 State Assembly –
California Pro-Life Council –
Euthanasia.Com –
International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force –