As­sisted-sui­cide bill putting Brown’s be­liefs on the spot

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

Whether Cal­i­for­nia will join the rest of the left coast in le­gal­iz­ing physi­cianas­sisted sui­cide de­pends largely on which Gov. Jerry Brown greets the bill near­ing his desk — the pro­gres­sive Demo­crat or the de­vout Catholic.

As a Demo­crat Mr. Brown would be ex­pected to sign the leg­is­la­tion, which cleared the Cal­i­for­nia Assem­bly in a 43-34 vote last week with largely Demo­cratic sup­port af­ter an emo­tional floor de­bate. The bill now goes to the state Se­nate, which ap­proved a sim­i­lar mea­sure in June.

But Mr. Brown is also a for­mer Je­suit novice in the Catholic Church, which adamantly op­poses the bill. So far he has not re­vealed his po­si­tion on Assem­bly Bill 2x-15, although he has taken is­sue with mov­ing the bill dur­ing the cur­rent spe­cial ses­sion, which is sup­posed to be fo­cused on health care fi­nanc­ing in­stead of the reg­u­lar ses­sion.

“Ev­ery­body’s in­ter­ested be­cause Jerry Brown’s a Catholic. He went to sem­i­nary as a young man,” said long­time Cal­i­for­nia po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Allan Hoffenblum.

Which way will the gover­nor go? “Your guess is as good as mine,” he said.

All Mr. Brown has said so far is that “this im­por­tant is­sue mer­its se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion,” adding that it would be “more ap­pro­pri­ate” to re­sume the right-to-die dis­cus­sion dur­ing the reg­u­lar ses­sion with the still-ac­tive two-year Se­nate bill, SB 128.

That bill, how­ever, stalled in the Assem­bly Health Com­mit­tee ear­lier this year af­ter an enor­mous show of op­po­si­tion from re­li­gious and dis­abled rights groups, who ar­gue that an as­sisted-sui­cide law would put pres­sure on the ter­mi­nally ill and those with dis­abil­i­ties to kill them­selves pre­ma­turely.

Those or­ga­ni­za­tions are now cry­ing foul over the Demo­cratic state leg­is­la­ture’s scram­ble to fast-track as­sisted-sui­cide leg­is­la­tion dur­ing the spe­cial ses­sion with lit­tle warn­ing.

“While we op­pose AB 2x-15 from a fun­da­men­tal pol­icy per­spec­tive, we also strongly agree with the Gover­nor’s of­fice that this bill is not ap­pro­pri­ate for the spe­cial ses­sion on health-care fi­nanc­ing,” said Teresa Favuzzi, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cal­i­for­nia Foun­da­tion for In­de­pen­dent Liv­ing Cen­ters, in a state­ment.

The bill re­quires two doc­tors to ap­prove end-of-life drugs for ter­mi­nally ill adults, makes it a felony to co­erce some­one into sui­cide and in­cludes a “sunset” pro­vi­sion un­der which the law would ex­pire in 10 years.

Assem­bly­mem­ber Su­san Tala­mantes Eg­gman, the Demo­crat who spon­sored the End of Life Op­tion Act, said Wed­nes­day on the Assem­bly floor that she is “com­mit­ted to this is­sue of peo­ple be­ing able to die on their own terms” af­ter wit­ness­ing the deaths of her mother, fa­ther and grand­mother.

“Ev­ery­body in here who talked about their own ex­pe­ri­ence with death, that is good, that is yours. Keep it, hold it, pray for the mir­a­cle,” Ms. Eg­gman said. “Other peo­ple want a dif­fer­ent op­tion.”

On the other hand, Demo­cratic Assem­bly­mem­ber Mike A. Gip­son said, “I have seen so many mirac­u­lous turn­arounds in peo­ples’ lives when the doc­tors have given up, when the doc­tors have said ‘do fu­neral ar­range­ments,’” as re­ported by The Sacra­ment Bee.

Tim Ros­ales, spokesman for Cal­i­for­ni­ans Against As­sisted Sui­cide, said the bill’s pro­po­nents have been able to avoid many of the hur­dles that come dur­ing the reg­u­lar ses­sion.

“They couldn’t get it passed through the Assem­bly Health Com­mit­tee — they didn’t have enough sup­port; they were hav­ing trou­ble in the nor­mal process,” Mr. Ros­ales said. “So now they’ve had to make an end run around things and uti­lize the spe­cial ses­sion to move this con­tro­ver­sial bill, and pretty much rush it through with very lit­tle de­bate and dis­cus­sion and public in­put.”

The Cal­i­for­nia bill is mod­eled af­ter the law in Ore­gon, which be­came, in 1997, the first state to al­low physi­cians to pre­scribe end-of-life drugs to ter­mi­nally ill adults. Washington and Ver­mont have since ap­proved right-to-die laws, and Mon­tana courts have rec­og­nized it as a valid de­fense for homi­cide charges.

In Au­gust, how­ever, the New Mexico Court of Ap­peals struck down a de­ci­sion by a lower court that had es­sen­tially es­tab­lished physi­cian-as­sisted sui­cide by deem­ing it “a fun­da­men­tal lib­erty in­ter­est.”

The right-to-die move­ment in­cludes Com­pas­sion & Choices, for­merly the Hem­lock So­ci­ety, which re­ceives fund­ing from left-wing bil­lion­aire Ge­orge Soros. The group has in­di­cated that it will pur­sue a Novem­ber 2016 bal­lot mea­sure if the leg­is­la­tion falls short.

Even though the as­sisted-sui­cide bill cleared the Assem­bly, Mr. Ros­ales noted that 11 Democrats voted against the mea­sure, which he de­scribed as “the largest amount of public op­po­si­tion to as­sisted sui­cide we’ve ever seen from Democrats in Cal­i­for­nia.”

Gov. Jerry Brown

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