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Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) activity in California

Past legislative activity

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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:

bullet1992: 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." 2

The proposition failed by a narrow margin: 54% to 46%. 1
bullet1995: 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 live.
bullet1999: Bill AB 1592: This bill, titled the "California Death with Dignity Act" was introduced by Assemblywoman Dion Aroner (D-Berkeley).

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) noted that:

"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." 3

The bill was approved at the committee level but was not voted upon in the Assembly.

bullet2005 : 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.
bullet2006: 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.

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  1. Kathi Hamlon, "Failed Attempts to Legalize Euthanasia/Assisted-Suicide in the United States," International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, at: http://www.internationaltaskforce.org/
  2. A.M. Capron, "California Proposition 161," Ascension Health, at: http://www.ascensionhealth.org/
  3. Rita L. Marker, "Assisted Suicide: The Continuing Debate," Page 5 to 7, ITFEAS, 2003-MAR-02, at: http://www.lifecanada.org/

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Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2007-JUN-02
Last updated 200
Author: Bruce A Robinson

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