California Legislature Expected to Vote This Week on Bill Promoting Euthanasia

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 5, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Legislature Expected to Vote This Week on Bill Promoting Euthanasia

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 5
, 2008

Sacramento, CA ( — Undaunted by their repeated failure to get the California legislature to approve a bill legalizing assisted suicide, the sponsors of the bill are moving forward with a new measure that promotes euthanasia in limited circumstances. Pro-life groups are asking for phone calls to defeat the bill.

Last Tuesday, on a straight party line vote, the Assembly Judiciary Committee sent AB 2747 to the Assembly floor.

Assemblymembers Patty Berg and Lloyd Levine, the authors of the pro-assisted suicide bill, are behind the bill.

Brian Johnston, the head of the California Pro-Life Council and the author of a seminal book on assisted suicide, talked with about the measure’s problems.

"On the surface, AB 2747 seems like a simple bill benefiting the hospice care industry," he said. "However, it contains a sneaky loophole that will permit doctors and health care providers to transform the rarely used practice of ‘palliative sedation’ into a vehicle permitting assisted suicide."

Palliative sedation, otherwise known as deep sedation, is the sedation of a suffering and imminently dying patient to the point of unconsciousness and the bill changes the standards surrounding its use.

Johnston says AB 2747 has a host of other problems — including defining terminal illness as having one year or less to live.

"We believe this is very arbitrary and subjective because predicting a patient’s time from death is merely a lifespan forecast," he says.

He says the bill also would create situations where cost considerations could affect treatment options, as assisted suicide options are generally cheaper than treatment.

Ultimately, Johnston told that "AB 2747 promotes practices which may hasten death, overlooking what should be the primary focus of counseling to a patient approaching the end of life, chiefly excellent palliative care and hospice referral."

Pro-life groups fear that deep sedation, once introduced and promoted in California, will become a frequent occurrence as it has been in the Netherlands, one of the few nations to approve assisted suicide and euthanasia.

An April study finds the number of patients killed via deep sedation is on the rise.

Researchers at the Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam found 1,800 people — or 7.1 percent of all deaths in the Netherlands in 2005 — involved deep sedation.

That percentage rose from 5.6 percent of all deaths involving deep sedation in 2001 while, during the same time period, euthanasia death fell from 2.6 percent of all deaths to 1.7 percent.

Judith Rietjens of Erasmus University told Reuters, “The increased use of continuous deep sedation for patients nearing death in the Netherlands and the limited use of palliative consultation suggests that this practice is increasingly considered as part of a regular medical practice.”

American author and attorney Wesley J. Smith commented on the recent research.

“Demonstrating the subversive nature of the euthanasia/assisted suicide movement on proper medical care, Dutch doctors are switching from lethally injecting patients to sedating them into a permanent coma so they die by dehydration over a period of days or weeks,” he said.

Smith said he thinks physicians are changing the way they kill patients so they don’t have to be present during the actual death and can assuage their consciences.

ACTION: Please contact your member of the California Assembly immediately and urge strong opposition to AB 2747 because it promotes euthanasia. You can find contact information at

Related web sites:
California Legislature –
California House –
California Pro-Life Council –