California Lawmaker Will Push Assisted Suicide Bill Again, May Hearing Set

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 27, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Lawmaker Will Push Assisted Suicide Bill Again, May Hearing Set Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 27, 2006

Sacramento, CA ( — California Assemblywoman Patty Berg, a Democrat, is set to push again for a bill to legalize assisted suicide there, making the Golden State the second after Oregon to allow the grisly practice. A coalition of pro-life, medical and disability rights groups is expected to oppose the proposal.

Berg, a former Planned Parenthood abortion business founder, says the measure is needed because terminally ill people should be allow to kill themselves if they no longer want to live.

"A terminally ill person has the right to make that choice," she told the Contra Costa Times. "It’s an issue of privacy, and, to me, it’s an issue of dignity."

Berg and Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, also a Democrat, are the lead sponsors of the bill, based on the Oregon law, which would allow physicians to prescribe lethal narcotics that would kill patients. Two doctors must certify the patient has six months or less left to live.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hold hearings on a measure, AB 651, in May.

Californians Against Assisted Suicide, a coalition of pro-life, medical and disability groups opposing the bill, says it worries disabled people would be pressured to end their lives. It would also compromise the healing role of doctors.

The group also worries about a high number of assisted suicides in the nation’s most populated state. Also, the number of California residents above the age of 65 is expected to double in the next 15 years as baby boomers age.

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

Even if the state legislature signs off on the assisted suicide bill, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in January he would veto it.

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," Schwarzeneggar added.

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.

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

A February 2006 survey of Hispanics on assisted suicide found 64 percent of California Latinos oppose it while just 29 percent are supportive.

An August 2005 Pew Research survey found only 44 percent of people "Favor making it legal for doctors to Assist in suicide." A May 2005 Gallup Poll found a close 49-42 percent split in favor of assisted suicide and a November 2004 CBS News survey determined that Americans were split 46-45 percent on the issue.

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

Related web sites:
Californians Against Assisted Suicide –
California Pro-Life Council –