California Assembly Votes This Week on Bill to Legalize Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 3, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Assembly Votes This Week on Bill to Legalize Assisted Suicide Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 3
, 2007

Sacramento, CA ( — Just one week after assisted suicide crusader Jack Kevorkian was released from prison, legislators in California will vote on whether or not to make the state the second to legalize the grisly practice of assisted suicide. A legislative panel approve the bill on Thursday and sent it to the full assembly.

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.

Last week the Assembly Appropriations Committee approved AB 374 with a pro forma vote. it was the second panel to back the bill after the House Judiciary Committee voted 7-3 for it back in March.

The California legislature has tried repeatedly to approve an assisted suicide bill but it has never made it out of the House in previous attempts. That could change this year as Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, a Democrat, has endorsed the measure.

The bill faces an important deadline and proponents must get enough votes for it by June 8 or the measure will be dead for the year. That means a possible vote this week will decide its fate.

Bill May of Catholics for the Common Good told about the situation and encouraged pro-life advocates to get involved.

"Proponents are trying to sell suicide as a medical treatment under the banner of compassion, but the bill is in fact a malignant attack on the dignity of the person, especially on the lives of the poor and vulnerable" he said.

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

"Our side has a good chance of winning but it will depend on how you respond. Please call your Assembly member [and tell] others so that they can actively oppose the bill as well," he said.

He said that volunteers are already leading postcard and petition drives in their parishes to encouraged churchgoers to contact their state lawmakers.

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.

Should the House approve the measure, the next battles for pro-life advocates opposed 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 governor has not ruled out signing it and doesn’t side with pro-life advocates on abortion or embryonic stem cell research.

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.

ACTION: Speak up against the assisted suicide bill ASAP. You can find your Assembly member and those in the area of your parish by going to

Related web sites:
Catholic for the Common Good –
California Pro-Life Council –
California state legislature –
Californians Against Assisted Suicide –