California Assembly Approves Bill Promoting Euthanasia of Terminally Ill Patients

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 29, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Assembly Approves Bill Promoting Euthanasia of Terminally Ill Patients

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 29
, 2008

Sacramento, CA ( — The California Assembly has approved a bill that promotes euthanasia in limited circumstances. The bill would codify palliative sedation and voluntary stopping of eating and drinking as legitimate means of pain control and pro-life groups are strongly opposed to it.

The assisted suicide bill allows doctors and nurses to suggest death by unconscious dehydration but the Assembly voted for the measure on a mostly party-line 40-32 vote, a one vote margin of victory with 40 votes needed to move it forward.

AB 2747 is authored by the same Democrats who unsuccessfully carried physician-assisted suicide bills the last three years. It now heads to the California Senate and pro-life groups are asking for calls and emails to stop it there.

"This deceptive bill will cause death and shorten life, despite its claims," Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, told after the vote.

"By transforming palliative sedation into a vehicle for assisted suicide, AB 2747 would transform doctors and nurses from healers and comforters into killers like Dr. Jack Kevorkian," he said.

AB 2747 would also allow a doctor or a nurse to opine that a patient has "less than one year to live," and then ask depressed patients if they would like to be totally sedated into unconsciousness.

Total sedation is usually an irreversible procedure that does not include nutrition and hydration. If patients or decision-making family members fall prey to suggestions of total sedation, death from dehydration will usually occur within five days.

Brian Johnston, the head of the California Pro-Life Council and the author of a seminal book on assisted suicide, has also 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 found 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.

This is the fourth time pro-euthanasia legislators have pushed a bill promoting euthanasia or assisted suicide. The legislature defeated previous attempts to make California the second state after Oregon to officially legalize assisted suicide.

ACTION: Please contact your member of the California Senate 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 –