Assembly panel OKs physician
Modeled after a 9-year-old Oregon law, AB 374 would allow an adult diagnosed as terminally ill to get a lethal prescription if certain specific criteria were met. Tom McDonald, a 77-year-old Oroville man fighting cancer, choked up as he testified in support of the measure. “I value my personal liberty and right to make our own decisions about health and our demise,” he said. “I don’t want to spend my final months sick with chemotherapy. I don’t want to lose control of my dignity.” But Marilyn Golden, who uses a wheelchair and represents the Disability Rights, Education and Defense Fund, said AB 374 would be “bad public policy.” She also testified there would be too little distinction between chronically ill and terminally ill patients. [email protected] (916) 447-9302 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SACRAMENTO – Backed by a powerful new ally, a bill allowing physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill Californians advanced easily Tuesday through its first hearing. Assembly Bill 374, co-sponsored by Speaker Fabian Nu ez, D-Los Angeles, was approved 7-3 in a partisan vote by the Judiciary Committee. Similar legislation has been proposed in previous sessions, but has never made it to the governor’s desk. However, growing public support and backing by Nu ez make it increasingly likely that the Democratic-controlled Assembly will pass this bill. Senate leader Don Perata, D-Oakland, has indicated he also is open to AB 374 if it comes up for a Senate vote. It first would need approval by the Assembly Public Safety Committee and the full Assembly. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has previously said he thinks voters should decide the issue, although he hasn’t ruled out letting it become law. After the hearing, Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, the Van Nuys Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, as well as the one proposed last year, said he believes the Assembly and Senate will approve the controversial measure. “We know that when terminally ill people are at the end of their lives, they don’t want to die but they also don’t want to have to suffer,” Levine said. “This bill provides a more humane way for people to make this very personal decision about how to end their lives. We look forward to continuing to move this legislation toward the governor’s desk.” During Tuesday’s debate, Levine and co-author Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Santa Rosa, said doctor-assisted suicide would allow Californians with terminal illnesses to avoid pain and die with dignity. But opponents, including groups representing senior citizens and the disabled, warned about the opportunity for abuse by relatives and HMOs.