California Assisted Suicide Bill Fails to Get Assembly Support

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 7, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Assisted Suicide Bill Fails to Get Assembly Support Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 7, 2005

Sacramento, CA ( — A bill to make California the second state in the nation to legalize assisted suicide failed to get enough support in the state Assembly to be brought up for a vote. Bill sponsors plan to attach their measure to legislation in the Senate, but the bill will still have to come back to the Assembly for consideration.

The California legislature has reached the halfway point of the session and all bills hoping to stay alive must clear one chamber.

Assembly members Patty Berg and Lloyd Levine, both Democrats, say they are just a few votes shy of having a majority to pass the bill. But to keep their hopes alive, they must move the debate to the Senate.

Californians Against Assisted Suicide spokesperson Tim Rosales says the lawmakers are well short of the votes they need.

"In the 80-person Assembly, suicide advocates could only count on 15 or 20 votes of support," he said. "This latest setback in California is a crushing defeat for doctor-assisted suicide supporters."

The California State Assembly consists of 48 Democrats and 32 Republicans. Some observers are surprised by the strong bipartisan coalition of legislators who oppose the measure.

The bill has also drawn opposition from pro-life and Catholic groups, the state medical association, hospice organizations and disability advocates.

"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.

Berg and Levine may not find much support in the Senate either, where lawmakers are focused on California’s budget problems.

"When people in California began to understand that this bill was not about the right to die, but is in fact about doctors acting as accessories to their patient’s suicide, support disappeared," Rosales said.

Leading advocates of the disabled have come out against the legislation last 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."

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:
Californians Against Assisted Suicide –
California State Assembly –
California Pro-Life Council –