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Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) ctivity in California

Bill AB 374 "California
Compassionate Choices Act" of 2007

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Legislative activity: Bill AB 374:

Assembly members Patty Berg, and Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) and Speaker of the Assembly Fabian Nunez introduced AB 374 on 2007-FEB-15 to legalize Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) in California. It is similar to AB 654 and AB 651 that failed to proceed during 2005 and 2006.

It was approved on 2007-MAR-27 by the Assembly Judiciary Committee by a strict party-line vote of 7 (all Democrats) to 3 (all Republicans). 1

It was heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on 2007-APR-18. No vote was taken. The bill was put on suspense.

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Contents of the bill:

Patty Berg made the following opening statement to the Assembly Judiciary Committee when she introduced the bill:

"This bill deals with a deeply personal choice available only to people who are dying of a terminal illness. it allows them to consider an option that a huge majority of Californians say they would like to have."

"But, much more than the specifics of the options, AB374 is about our fundamental right to privacy -- a civil right that is expressed as a freedom to choose."

"It is about the freedom of the individual to make choices – and the freedom for your choices to be different from my choices."

"The question before you today is not whether you approve of a terminally ill patient hastening his or her death. It is about whether you will uphold our right to privacy, and whether you believe in the right of the individual to choose."

"… as soon as we allow the fears of one group or the religious beliefs of another to constrain this particular right, we will find that other rights ultimately are in the crosshairs."

"What the opposition wants is not protection, but really to issue an ultimatum that imposes their personal and religious beliefs on all of California. And if we can learn anything from history it is that we are imperiled when freedom is constrained, not when it is advanced."

The preamble to the bill states:

"This bill would enact the California Compassionate Choices Act, which would authorize an adult who meets certain qualifications, and who has been determined by his or her attending physician to be suffering from a terminal disease, as defined, to make a request for medication prescribed pursuant to this bill to provide comfort with an assurance of peaceful dying if suffering becomes unbearable. The bill would establish procedures for making these requests."

"The bill would require that nothing in its provisions be construed to authorize ending a patient's life by lethal injection, mercy killing, or active euthanasia, and would provide that action taken in accordance with the act shall not constitute suicide or homicide." 2

Some of the contents of the bill:

  • Only California residents whose prognosis is three months to life or less are eligible for PAS.
  • A patient would have to make two oral requests and one written and witnessed requests for assistance in committing suicide.
  • There are two waiting periods: a minimum of15 days between the first oral request and the written request and 48 hours between the second oral request and the written/witnessed request.
  • The written request would be similar to the following:

REQUEST FOR MEDICATION TO END MY LIFE IN A HUMANE AND DIGNIFIED MANNER
I, ____, am an adult of sound mind. I am suffering from ____, which my attending physician has determined is a terminal disease which will, within reasonable medical judgment, likely lead to my death within six months, and which has been medically confirmed by a consulting physician.

I have been fully informed of my diagnosis, prognosis, the nature of the medication to be prescribed, and the potential associated risks, the expected result, and the feasible alternatives, including comfort care, hospice care, and pain control.

I request that my attending physician prescribe medication that will allow me to hasten the end of my life in a humane and dignified manner.

INITIAL ALL:
------- I understand that I have the right to rescind this request at any time. I understand that I will not receive a prescription for the medication until
 ------- my physician verifies that my current  prognosis is three months to live or less. I understand the full import of this
 ------- request, and I expect to die if I take the medication to be prescribed.I make this request voluntarily and without reservation. I made this
------- request without any coercion or influence based on financial or other reasons from anyone else or any entity.
------- I accept full moral responsibility for my actions.

INITIAL ONE:
I have informed my family of my
------- decision and taken their opinions into consideration.
------- I have decided not to inform my family of my decision.
------- I have no family to inform of my decision.

Print Name -------------
Signed: ----------------
Dated: -----------------

  • When a physician is approached by a patient the doctor must inform the patient of:

    "The feasible alternatives, including, but not limited to, comfort care, hospice care, and pain control, or, if appropriate to the patient's faith tradition spiritual healing. This disclosure must be provided in writing to the patient, and shall include, but not be limited to, contact information about locally based providers of comfort and hospice care.

  • A consulting physician must:
    "... confirm, the attending physician's diagnosis and that the patient is suffering from a terminal disease and verify that the patient is capable, is acting voluntarily, and has made an informed decision."
  • If the physician suspects that the patient has a "psychiatric or psychological disorder, or depression, causing impaired judgment or if the patient is not a hospice patient" then the patient must be referred to counseling by a psychiatrist or psychologist.

  • A 15 day waiting period is required before the doctor can prescribe medication. The patient must be repeatedly informed that they can rescind their request for aid in dying at any time.

  • "The patient must self-administer the medication provided ..."

  • Physicians would be required to report assisted suicide cases. 3

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References:

  1. " 'Compassionate Choices Act' AB 374, ITFEAS, at: http://www.internationaltaskforce.org/
  2. Text of Bill AB 374 is at: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/
  3. "AB 374: California Compassionate Choices Act," California Catholic Conference, 2007, at: http://www.cacatholic.org/
  4. Frank Russo, "California Compassionate Choices Act, AB 374, Passed by Assembly Judiciary Committee," California Progress Report, 2007-MAR-28, at: http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/

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Site navigation:

Home > "Hot" topics  > Assisted suicide > U.S. > CA > here

 

or: Home > "Hot" topics  > Suicide menu > Assisted suicide > U.S. > CA > here

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Copyright © 2007 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2007-JUN-02
Last updated 2010-JUL-04

Author: Bruce A Robinson
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