California Assisted Suicide Bill Reintroduced, Gets Speaker’s Support

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 14, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Assisted Suicide Bill Reintroduced, Gets Speaker’s Support Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 14
, 2007

Sacramento, CA ( — California lawmakers are trying once again to make the state the second to legalize the grisly practice of assisted suicide. They have reintroduced their measure, based on Oregon’s assisted suicide law, and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez said Tuesday he plans to support it.

Under the bill, adults who are diagnosed with less than six months to live could ask a physician for the drugs to kill themselves.

Two doctors would have to declare the patient mentally competent to use the lethal barbiturates and the person would have to submit both an oral and written request for the drugs and undergo a waiting period.

Family members or guardians would not be able to make the decision for a patient and doctors who are opposed to assisted suicide would not be compelled to participate.

Assemblywoman Patty Berg and Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, both Democrats, are again behind the measure.

Last year, a state Senate committee narrowly rejected the assisted suicide bill on a 3-2 vote

Pro-life groups say they will once again join with Catholic organizations, doctors groups and the disability community in defeating the bill.

"Not only are we going to fight it again, but we think we have a strong enough coalition to defeat it again," said Cecelia Cody, a spokeswoman for the Right to Life of California, told the Oakland Tribune newspaper.

Meanwhile, Nunez said he would join the effort to get the legislature to pass the bill and Berg and Levine said his support greatly increases the chance of approving it.

"Is it important that the speaker is a joint author? It’s huge. It sends a clear message to all members of the Assembly that this is not only good policy, it’s good politics," Berg told the Tribune.

More than two dozen lawmakers have already co-sponsored the bill, more than in previous years.

Paul Longmore, director of the Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University, previously said 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.”

Even if the state legislature signs off on the assisted suicide bill, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said 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 previously. "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 –