California Assemblymember Patty Berg (D-CA1) is again trying to pass an assisted suicide bill. AB 374, the “California Compassionate Choices Act,” would legalize the prescription of a lethal dose of medication to a patient diagnosed as terminal.

Provisions of the bill on the patient’s end include:

  • the patient must be legally competent.

  • the patient must be a legal resident of California.

  • the patient must be diagnosed with a terminal (not chronic) condition.

  • the patient must voluntarily request medical aid in hastening his or her death.

  • the patient must make that request at least twice, 15 days apart, and both verbally and in written form.

  • the patient must notify next-of-kin.

And from the doctor’s end:

  • inform the patient of his or her medical diagnosis or prognosis.

  • notify the patient of possible adverse effects of the medication that will be prescribed to kill him or her (presumably besides killing the patient).

  • alternatives such as hospice and pain management.

  • refer the patient to another physician for a confirming second opinion.

  • make sure the patient understands that the request can be withdrawn at any time.

A legislative summary of the bill states that “[N]othing in this bill shall be construed to authorize a physician or any other person to end a patient’s life by lethal injection, mercy killing, or active euthanasia. Provides that actions taken in accordance with this bill shall not, for any purpose, constitute suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing, or homicide under the law. All state documents shall refer to the medical practice described in this chapter as “aid in dying.”

If the bill is passed by the entire California Assembly and sent to the California Senate, it will be opposed by State Senator Tom Harmon (R-CA35):

I wholeheartedly believe that AB 374 and other assisted suicide proposals pose a real danger to people with new disabilities or chronic diseases. Research overwhelmingly shows that people with new disabilities often initially experience despondency and even suicidal feelings, but later adapt well and have happiness in their lives. AB 374 is modeled after a similar statute in Oregon, the only U.S. state which allows physician-assisted suicide. Oregon’s law allows for a two-week waiting period, but working through this initial despondency often takes longer than that. In that early period, before one learns the truth about how good one’s quality of life can be, it would be all too easy to succumb to despair.

If you would like to express your opinion about AB 374 to your California assemblymember, you may look up the assemblymember’s contact information in the assembly roster.

[cehwiedel also writes at]

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