California Assisted Suicide Advocates Regroup After Losing Proposal Again

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 10, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Assisted Suicide Advocates Regroup After Losing Proposal Again Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 10, 2006

Sacramento, CA ( — Advocates of assisted suicide are regrouping after failing at their second attempt to get California to become the second state in the nation to legalize assisted suicide. Last month, a state Senate committee voted down the assisted suicide proposal on a 3-2 vote.

"The big issues often take time to pass,” Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, a Democrat who co-sponsored the assisted suicide bill, said.

"Each time, we get closer to our goal. All I can tell you is we’re not giving up. I’m just not going to walk away from the issue. We’ll continue to build public pressure and support," Levine told the San Jose Mercury News.

Barbara Lee Coombs, the president of Compassion & Choices, a pro-euthanasia group, told the News that she’s not sure of the specific plans assisted suicide advocates have for California.

"We’re kind of reeling. It will take a while to find our sea legs again," she said.

Whatever advocates of the practice decide to do, a coalition of groups including doctors organizations, Hispanic groups, disability advocates, Catholic groups and pro-life organizations will be there trying to stop them.

Wayne Johnson, who served as a consultant to the coalition of two-dozen groups, known as the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide, told the San Jose newspaper that their combined strength will make it tough to ever pass a bill legalizing assisted suicide.

"If you have a well-organized, strong grass-roots opposition — and it was a broad, broad coalition — it’s very difficult to rush something through," he said.

"And this is a niche issue, one of those odd little issues that don’t have a large constituency who probably aren’t the most organized," Johnson explained.

Paul Longmore, director of the Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University, told the newspaper that disability rights advocates will continue to fight the proposal.

"It was a major victory for the alliance of groups opposing this, but the battle will go on,” he said. "It’s clear proponents are not ready to give up completely. I don’t think we can relax.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee killed the assisted suicide bill this time around.

The committee was dominated 3-2 by Democrats. Republican Sen. Tom Harman of Huntington Beach opposed the measure and committee chairman Sen. Joe Dunn, a Democrat from Santa Ana, joined him to defeat the proposal.

Democratic Sens. Martha Escutia of Whittier and Sheila Kuehl of Santa Monica voted for the bill but it died on a 2-2 vote. Sen. Bill Morrow, an Oceanside Republican, was not present for the vote but he opposed the bill as well.

The measure would have allowed doctors to prescribe lethal barbiturates for patients who are declared terminally ill and have less than six months to live. Patients would have had to undergo psychological examinations and waited two weeks after the request to take the drugs.

Last year a measure to legalize the grisly practice received the backing of two Assembly committees but did not have enough votes in the full Assembly so it never came up for a vote.

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."

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

Nationally, Americans are generally split on the issue of assisted suicide.

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.

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