California Assisted Suicide Bill Euthanized as Backers Short on Votes

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 8, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Assisted Suicide Bill Euthanized as Backers Short on Votes Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 8
, 2007

Sacramento, CA ( — A bill in the California legislature that would have made the state the second to legalize the practice of assisted suicide is dead for the year. Backers of the bill pulled it from consideration Thursday when they realized they did not have enough votes to get it approved by a Friday deadline.

The bill has already received approval from a state Assembly committee but did not have enough votes to make it through the full Assembly.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez ended up abandoning the effort and claimed he couldn’t find enough support for AB 374 as it has been "very difficult because of the way the issue has been demonized by the religious right."

Tim Rosales, a spokesman for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, told the media that "It’s just not something that legislators are comfortable with, given all the red flags."

Groups opposed to the bill said they were elated by the news but vowed to keep fighting it since backers said they were going to try to round up more votes for another try next year.

"Doctors should be healers, not killers," Campaign for Children and Families president Randy Thomasson told "Jack Kevorkian may be on the loose again, but the defeat of this suicide bill means ‘Dr. Death’ won’t be employed in California anytime soon."

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.

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.

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. Backers thought they had a better chance when Nunez endorsed the measure.

During the committee hearings, disability rights advocates, seniors groups, and doctors organizations joined pro-life groups in opposing the bill. That coalition of organizations was thought to have created enough firepower to stop the measure.

Had the House approved the bill, Senate leader Don Perata, a Democrat, said he supported it and would have pushed it 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. But he did not indicate what exactly he would have done.

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.

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