California Assisted Suicide Measure Defeated, For Now
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 6, 2005
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA--Disability and other groups opposing a physician-assisted suicide law in California declared at least a temporary victory Thursday as the measure failed to collect enough votes to pass the 80-member state Assembly.
As a result, Assembly Bill 654, dubbed the "California Compassionate Choices Act", is essentially dead.
"At the end of the day proponents couldn't find 20 votes to publicly support this bill," said Laura Remson Mitchell of the California Disability Alliance, in a press statement.
"When legislators realized this bill was not about the right to die, but was in fact about undermining our healthcare system and doctors assisting in their patients' suicide, support evaporated as it always has."
However, the bill's sponsors said they would add the contents of AB 654 to unrelated legislation that has already passed the Assembly, but is waiting for votes in the state Senate. Supporters of the measure said this tactic would give them more time to debate the issue and gather the necessary votes after the Senate considers it.
A recent poll showed that 70 percent of Californians surveyed support a state law making assisted suicide legal.
Mitchell dismissed the move as little more than a publicity stunt.
"They will have even less support in the Senate than in the Assembly," she said. "This battle is over."
The bill was modeled after Oregon's voter-approved "Death with Dignity Act". As written, it would allow people considered to be "mentally competent" and in the final months of a terminal illness to request a prescription for a lethal dose of a drug that they would take on their own.
Many disability rights groups have successfully opposed efforts in several states to legalize assisted suicide. They argue such laws would make people with severe disabilities more vulnerable, especially at a time when funding for such things as in-home services, health care and pain relief is low.
"We don't like that the very first service that's fully funded is suicide," Cheryl Bergan, a public policy analyst with the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, told the Eureka Times-Standard.
"California Disability Alliance Hails Defeat of Doctor-Assisted Suicide" (Justice For All)
"Bill on assisted suicide suspended; efforts move to Senate" (Lake County Record-Bee)
"Disability groups outline opposition" (Times-Standard)