California Bill to Legalize Assisted Suicide Gets Hearing Next Week

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 14, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Bill to Legalize Assisted Suicide Gets Hearing Next Week Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 14, 2006

Sacramento, CA ( — Legislation that would make California the second in the nation will have a hearing in a state legislative panel next week. The California state Senate judiciary committee will hold a hearing on the bill Tuesday afternoon.

Officials with Californians Against Assisted Suicide, a coalition of groups including disability rights groups, medical organizations and pro-life groups, will attend the meeting and oppose the bill.

"The Coalition believes assisted suicide represents a destructive response to illness or disability," the group said in a statement provided to "As such, any legalization of assisted suicide is bad policy and harmful to the well-being of Californians."

Hispanic groups are also opposed to the legislation, AB 651, and the entire national board of LULAC voted to oppose the legislation in April.

"Once again, the Latino community doesn’t want assisted suicide," Angel Luevano, state director of California LULAC, said in a statement provided to "The disability community does not want assisted suicide. The poor and uninsured do not want assisted suicide."

California Assemblywoman Patty Berg, a Democrat, is the lead sponsor of the assisted suicide bill. It is 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.

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.

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."

A recent survey of Latinos across California indicates that 64 percent oppose assisted suicide. The Democratic polling firm Fairbanks, Maslin, Maullin & Associates conducted the poll in February.

Pro-life advocates worry 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.

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.

Nationally, 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 –