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Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) activity in California

Opposition to Bill AB 374
"California Compassionate Choices Act:"

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Opposition to bill AB 374:

bullet Frank Russo reported on two persons who opposed the bill before the Assembly Judiciary Committee:
bullet A Roman Catholic priest who testified against the bill, said that those who support the bill would go to Hell.
bullet "Conservative Republican Assemblyman Anthony Adams saw it as a preservation of life issue and one that he had a duty to impose his belief on others. He stated, 'You better darn well believe I want to impose my morality on these people'." 1
bullet An alliance, Californians Against Assisted Suicide (CAAS) is opposed to the bill. It includes the California Catholic Conference, the Alliance for Catholic Healthcare, and some physicians' groups, hospice workers, disability rights groups, advocates for low-income workers, Latino civil rights organizations and pro-life groups.

CAAS states that:

"As Catholics we oppose euthanasia or assisted suicide because we believe that human life is a gift from God, that we are stewards—not owners—of that life, that we are made in God's image and that human life is sacred from conception to natural death. This, of course, informs and underlies our policy perspectives."

The implication is that, although this theological belief is not shared by other faith groups, that the Church will attempt to force all California residents to follow its teaching.

CAAS has other objections to PAS are:

bullet The replacement of references to assisted suicide with "aid in dying" and "death with dignity."
bullet "Legalizing assisted suicide could seriously damage the relationship between patients and healthcare workers." They do not specify why or how this would happen.
bullet Persons with newly diagnosed disabilities or chronic diseases may initially feel depressed and want to commit suicide. This bill would facilitate assisted suicide. The CAAS seems to overlook the fact that assisted suicide is only available to patients will a life expectancy less than three months.
bullet Health insurers, family members, potential heirs might try to influence patients to commit suicide.
bullet Most patients who have requested assisted suicide in Oregon were not suffering from intractable pain; they typically suffered from loss of autonomy and loss of dignity. 2
bullet The International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide (ITFEAS) also opposes the bill. Their objections to AB 374 are:
bullet Patients are given the option to not inform their families of their decision.
bullet Doctors working for the government, managed care programs and HMOs could approve prescriptions to aid in dying.
bullet Physicians would be able to suggest suicide to their patients as an option.
bullet Physicians could approve prescriptions for patients suffering from depression or other psychological disorder as long as the patient's judgment is not impaired.
bullet Patients would be given the freedom of receiving the medication by mail.
bullet Patients would be given the freedom of making oral requests by phone and/or submitting the written and witnessed request by mail.
bullet A patient could obtain medication for aid in dying, subsequently become incompetent, and then take the medication while in that state.
bullet Doctors would not be penalized if they did not report a patient's suicide.
bullet State agencies are required to refer to PAS as "aid in dying."
bullet Patients would have the freedom to terminate their life in order to avoid being a burden to their families.
bullet To many Californians who are poor or without health insurance have no access to proper medical care and pain management. Aid in dying will be the only way to end the intractable pain. 3
bullet Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, a pro-family organization, said:

"Doctors must be healers, not killers. Depressed patients need love, family, spiritual counsel, and proven pain medication, not handed what amounts to a gun to the head. AB 374 must not become law. Because HMOs (Health Maintenance Organization--restricted health insurance) are the controlling force for so many physicians, it's inevitable that hospitals and hospices would soon view patients as more expensive alive than dead. ..."

"The compassionate answer for terminal patients is effective pain management, not suicide. God created us, and no innocent human being between womb and tomb deserves to be murdered, no matter what it's called. Legalizing so-called 'voluntary' suicide today will lead to involuntary suicide tomorrow, as demonstrated by the ongoing Netherlands tragedy."

"What a horrifying nightmare to hear a nurse come up to you and say 'the doctor will kill you now.' Governor Schwarzenegger shouldn't allow himself or anyone else to play God. He should pledge to veto this ‘Dr. Death’ bill without delay." 4

Thomasson appears to misunderstand the scope of this bill. No doctor is going to kill a patient. The most a doctor will be able to do is to prescribe fatal medication that the patient has repeatedly asked for. It is the patient who decides when or if to take the pills and be delivered from intractable pain.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Frank D. Russo, "California Compassionate Choices Act, AB 374, Passed by Assembly Judiciary Committee," California Progress Report, 2007-MAR-28, at: http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/
  2. "Assisted Suicide," Californians Against Assisted Suicide - E-Newsletter, 2007-FEB-26, at: http://www.cacatholic.org/
  3. " 'Compassionate Choices Act' AB 374, ITFEAS, at: http://www.internationaltaskforce.org/
  4. Gudrun Schultz, "Physician-Assisted Suicide Bill Approved by California Judiciary Committee," Life Site News, 2007-MAR-28, at: http://www.lifesite.net/

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

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