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CURRENT ISSUE:  June 6, 2005VOL. 43, NO. 11Oakland, CA

Efforts intensify vs. Assembly bill on assisted suicide

Lobbyists for the California Catholic Conference were waging an intense campaign among members of the State Assembly to keep a bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide from passing off the floor by June 3. They want to keep California from becoming the second state in the nation to allow the practice.

The bill, AB 654, passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee, May 25, on an 11-5 vote, with most Democrats in favor and all Republican members against.

“We’re sad that the bill came forward at this point and we don’t believe that the votes are there for its passage on the floor,” said Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference in Sacramento.
The California Medical Association has also advocated strongly against its passage.

If it does pass out of the Assembly, the bill would still need to clear at least one Senate committee and the full Senate before it is sent to the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for a decision.

The legislation is modeled after Oregon’s seven-year-old physician-assisted suicide law. The measure is co-authored by Assemblymembers Patty Berg, D-Eureka, and Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys.

If signed into law, the measure would allow certain terminally ill Californians to obtain a lethal dose of medication from physicians after a waiting period and multiple medical evaluations. Currently only Oregon allows the practice.

Dolejsi said that Catholic teaching endorses appropriate autonomy and responsible limits to medical treatment. “God is the author of life and life is a gift,” he said. “While we have autonomy about the choices we make on the levels of care at the end of life, it is never appropriate or right to kill ourselves or to ask someone to kill us.”

“This bill will put the poor, the vulnerable and the disabled at even greater risk and compromise their quality of life,” he said.

“We don’t offer enough health care to Californians, yet there are those who want to have physicians kill them. We’re calling on all Catholics in the state to let their legislators know their opinion on this issue.”

Some Democrats in the Assembly remain opposed to the physician-assisted suicide bill and have voiced their opposition. When the bill cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee on a 5-3 vote in April, Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, D-San Fernando, joined Republicans in opposition.

Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, D-Hanford, who is not on the Assembly Judiciary Committee, also issued a statement saying physician-assisted suicide is immoral and wrong.

A previous attempt in 1999 to pass a similar assisted suicide measure made it through the Assembly’s Judiciary and Appropriations Committees before it was tabled on the Assembly floor.

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