Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) activity in California
Past legislative activity
Oregon's Death With
Dignity law went into effect during 1997. It allows some terminally-ill
patients to request help to end their lives through suicide. This triggered plebiscites and
legislative bills in other states.
As of 2007-APR, one ballot initiative and five legislative bills have been proposed
in California to make PAS available in that state. 1
None have succeeded:
||1992: Proposition 161 was a ballot initiative to legalize PAS. It
would have given "mentally competent terminally ill adults the legal right
to voluntarily request and receive aid in dying" from a physician through
the use of a "medical procedure that will terminate" the patientís life in a
"painless, humane and dignified manner." The bill would have allowed
physicians to administer lethal medications or to issue a prescription for
the patient to self-administer, The patient would have to sign a document
requesting assistance in dying. Two unrelated witnesses who knew the
patient would have to sign a statement declaring that the patient appeared
to be of "sound mind and under no duress, fraud or undue influence." Two
physicians would have to state that the patient was suffering with a
terminal condition and had "expressed an enduring request for aid in dying."
The proposition failed by a narrow margin: 54% to 46%. 1
||1995: Bill AB 1080 and Bill AB 1310: These are two identical
bills modeled after Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. The would have made PAS
available only to persons who are expected to have less than six months to
||1999: Bill AB 1592: This bill, titled the "California Death
with Dignity Act" was introduced by Assemblywoman Dion Aroner
It was opposed by The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC),
who passed resolution stated that "many Latinos do not have health care ...
the poor have a right to live and to receive proper medical care. ... It is
unconscionable to talk about legalizing physician-assisted suicide when
low-income people do not have access to comprehensive medical care including
pain management and hospice care."
The International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide (ITFEAS)
"The Berkeley City Council, Californians for Disability
Rights, and the Oakland-based Committee for the Black Panther
Party were firmly against it, pointing out that, at least in the
current health system, no assisted suicide bill could be written that
would safeguard its use against the poor and people with disabilities."
The bill was approved at the committee level but was
not voted upon in the Assembly.
||2005 : Bill AB 654: In 2005-FEB, Assembly members Patty Berg and
Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) introduced AB 654: "Compassionate Choices Act." It
was also patterned after the Oregon law.
||2006: Bill AB 651: In 2005-JUN, AB 654 was renamed AB 651. It was
amended on 2006-JUN-15 to emphasize "comfort" of the patient instead of
ending their life. It would have required state agencies to refer to
assisted suicide as "aid-in-dying." It was defeated by the Senate Judiciary
Committee on 2006-JUN-27 by a single vote.
Kathi Hamlon, "Failed Attempts to Legalize Euthanasia/Assisted-Suicide in
the United States," International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide,
A.M. Capron, "California Proposition 161," Ascension Health, at:
Rita L. Marker, "Assisted Suicide: The Continuing Debate," Page 5 to 7,
ITFEAS, 2003-MAR-02, at:
Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on
First posted: 2007-JUN-02
Last updated 2007-JUN-02
Author: Bruce A Robinson