Tuesday, May 10, 2005

"Assisted Suicide" Bill Introduced in California Legislature

On February 17, 2005, AB654, the California “Compassionate Choices Act,” was introduced in the California Assembly. AB 654 would give doctors the power to prescribe lethal drug overdoses to patients for the purpose of causing death.

Currently, this bill has passed through the Assembly Judiciary Committee with a vote of 5-4. The next stop is the Assembly Appropriations Committee. As of this writing, no hearing date has been set.

On November 10, 2004, the California Catholic Conference issued the following statement in opposition to this bill:

CCC Will Oppose the Proposed 2005 "Assisted Suicide" Bill
Unfortunately, once again the California Legislature will be asked to consider a bill to legalize physicians assisting patients to commit suicide. In the past, the people of the state have voted against a ballot initiative legalizing "assisted suicide" and the Legislature has rejected bills that would do the same thing. It is evident that both the electorate and their elected representatives have chosen a more sophisticated and compassionate response to end-of-life issues.

A dying person's request for death is almost always a cry for help coming from his or her fear of helplessness and abandonment. And the medical community knows that such a request which is met with adequate palliation, treatment for depression and/or loving comfort care will in almost every case be rescinded. In addition, lived experience has demonstrated that if those who are dying are embraced by their families and their communities, they will not seek death, but will live their last days well.

Legalizing "assisted suicide" in California is not good public policy because of the inevitable social injustices that will follow. The pressure to make the "choice" will increase with the burden of illness, age or diminished economic status. Predictably and pragmatically the disabled, the elderly and the poor will not be fully welcome to partake in community resources when they have the "other" option.

The California Catholic Conference actively opposed the previous attempts to legalize "assisted suicide" in California and pledges to once again join with many other groups and individuals to lobby vigorously against any attempt to pass such a law.

In addition, several years ago the California bishops, through the California Catholic Conference, launched a statewide educational effort, Embracing Our Dying, to address the moral, medical, legal, and practical aspects of end-of-life issues. Most of the resources developed for this effort are available to the public on their web site,

Ideas for Action: “What Can I Do?”

1. The California Catholic Conference (CCC) and the Alliance for Catholic Heathcare have joined a coalition, Californians Against Assisted Suicide. You can sign up at their website for updates.

2. Check out the CCC website for the most current updates. Also on the website are brochures on "How to Lobby," "How a Bill Becomes a Law," and the text of the bill.

3. One page backgrounders available from the CCC in English and Spanish. These backgrounders give a history of the effort to legalize assisted suicide in California, Church teaching, and comments. They can be reproduced and distributed.

4. Call, write, or visit your legislator. To find your legislator, log on to the Legislative Council of California website, and enter your zipcode.


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