California is now one step closer to legalising assisted suicide after a bill passed in the State Senate by a vote of 23 to 14 on Thursday evening. SB-128 now moves to the State Assembly (the lower house). Governor Jerry Brown, who once trained as a Jesuit priest, has given no indication of how he will vote.
It is hard to tell what the outcome will be. Similar measures failed in 2005 and 2007. Opponents of the bill are determined to lobby hard against it. “This bill … tells people with disabilities who face a terminal diagnosis, that may well prove inaccurate, that there is no dignity in our lives,” said Marilyn Golden of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. “Assisted suicide is dangerous, and we are going to bring that message loud and clear to every member of the state Assembly and the governor.”
The 90-minute debate before the vote was deeply emotional. The author of the bill, Senator Lois Wolk told the Senate: “I was 17 when my vibrant young mother ended a three-year struggle with metastatic cancer, and it was frankly brutal. “Her suffering was prolonged and unbearable – for her, certainly, and also for her family,” she said. “It does not have to be this way.” Senator Ted Gaines, on the other hand, argued that “Doctors should kill disease. They should kill pain. They should not kill their patients.”
The California bill is modelled on Oregon’s statute. Two doctors must confirm that a patient has six months or less to live and his mental competence.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.