California House Committee Approves Bill Legalizing Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 28, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 28
, 2007

Sacramento, CA ( — A California state House committee has approved a bill that would make the state the second to legalize assisted suicide. With backing from Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, a Democrat, the bill was approved along party lines and now heads to the full state House for a debate and vote.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 7-3 to approve AB74, which has never made it out of the House in previous attempts to pass it.

The measure would allow adults who are diagnosed with less than six months to live to ask a physician for the drugs to kill themselves.

Should the House approve the measure, the next battles for pro-life advocates oppose to the bill may be difficult. Senate leader Don Perata, a Democrat, says he’s open to the bill, which could open doors there.

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger previously indicated he would veto the bill and said he preferred the voters to decide the fate of assisted suicide in the state.

"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."

However, the San Jose Mercury News reports that Schwarzenegger hasn’t ruled out signing it.

During the committee hearing, disability rights advocates, seniors groups, and doctors organizations joined pro-life groups in opposing the bill.

Under the legislation, 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.

This is the third year in a row that Assembly members Lloyd Levine and Patty Berg, both Democrats, have introduced the legislation, which is patterned after Oregon’s first-in-the-nation assisted suicide law.

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 –