California Gov Schwarzenegger: Voters Should Decide Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 25, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Gov Schwarzenegger: Voters Should Decide Assisted Suicide Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 25, 2006

Sacramento, CA ( — Euthanasia advocates hope the California state legislature will approve a measure that would make it the second state in the nation to legalize assisted suicide. However, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday that he thinks voters in the state should make the decision, not the state legislature.

"I personally think this is a decision probably that should go to the people, like the death penalty and other big issues," the governor said.

"I don’t think 120 legislators and I should make the decision. I think the people should make the decision, and whatever that is, that is what it ought to be," the governor said at an appearance at the Sacramento Press Club.

Schwarzenegger indicated he would veto assisted suicide legislation if it came to his desk.

The comments will probably make what was already considered to be a difficult task much more challenging.

Last year a measure to legalize the grisly practice never made it out of committee as some Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the measure.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hold hearings on a measure to legalize assisted suicide, AB 651, this March.

Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, a Democrat who is a leading sponsor of the bill, told the Los Angeles Times he was disappointed by the comments and he didn’t want the issue to come before voters again.

Thirteen years ago, California voters rejected an assisted suicide ballot proposal. Voters rejected Proposition 161 by a 54% to 46% margin.

Tim Rosales, a spokesman for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, told the Times that California voters oppose assisted suicide "once they look at what this issue is about, that it’s not about life choices, it’s about giving doctors legal responsibility to provide lethal doses of medication."

Schwarzeneggar’s comments come during the same week in which euthanasia proponents re-launched their efforts to support the bill. Terminally ill patients who back the legislation kicked off their efforts with a rally at the state Capitol on Tuesday.

They cited a Supreme Court decision saying the federal government can’t prohibit the use of federally controlled drugs in assisted suicides as bolstering their case.

Meanwhile, doctors say that palliative care — a system of treating physical and psychological symptoms — is the best method of helping terminally ill patients instead of assisted suicide.

Dr. Steven Pantilat, director of the palliative care service at UC-San Francisco Medical Center, told the News that a patient who asks about assisted suicide is someone who needs better treatment, not help killing himself.

"If you treat someone’s pain and depression, the requests for physician-assisted suicide go way down,” he said. "That’s what the research shows.”

He said the percentage of patients who are concerned about how and when they die is very small compared with the percentage of patients who want to be spared extreme physical pain.

TAKE ACTION: Contact the California legislature and tell your elected officials you oppose assisted suicide. Go to: