Beginning with Oregon in 1997, five states have legalized or decriminalized physician-assisted suicide. California will not be joining the list this year after the bill’s authors, state Sens. Lois Wolk and Bill Monning, decided not to present their legislation to the General Assembly. The bill passed the Senate last month 23-15 and was scheduled to have its first hearing before the Assembly Health Committee today.
Spurred by wide public support for assisted suicide, Wolk and Monning crafted the bill based on Oregon’s law. Two doctors would have to certify the patient as competent and expected to die within six months. Patients also would have to meet several other criteria. The bill would have required doctors to wait 15 days after certification before writing the fatal prescription.
The California Medical Association had given the bill its tacit support. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, in May the CMA changed its internal policy to a neutral position, becoming the first state medical association in the country to end opposition to physician-assisted suicide. Euthanasia advocates used the recent, high-profile suicide of Californian Brittany Maynard, who had to move to Oregon to get her lethal drugs, as a rallying cry for the legislation.
But the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and a coalition of disability rights groups opposed the bill. Tim Rosales, spokesman for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, said today’s results were due to a “combined effort from a diversity of groups who may not necessarily agree on anything else.” Although the bill’s withdrawal “is a setback to the national assisted suicide movement, California will remain high on the pro-suicide priority list,” Rosales predicted.
Voters in Oregon and Washington have approved so-called death with dignity acts, and the Vermont legislature passed a similar law in 2013. Court rulings in Montana and New Mexico allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to patients without fear of prosecution.
— by Bob Brown | WNS