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Assisted Suicide Bill Passed California Assembly (2008)

An assisted-suicide bill that allows doctors and nurses to suggest death by unconscious dehydration has barely passed the California State Assembly. AB 2747 would authorize total sedation without nutrition and hydration for depressed and confused patients, whether or not their natural death was imminent.

The bill would also allow family members to order the death of a mentally disabled person when a nurse opines they have less than a year to live, similar to Terry Schindler Schiavo’s death at the hands of her husband.

AB 2747 passed the Democrat-controlled Assembly Wednesday afternoon on a 41-32 vote, a one-vote margin of victory in the 80-member lower house.

The vote was virtually party line, Democrats for, Republicans against. AB 2747 is authored by the same Democrats who unsuccessfully carried physician-assisted suicide bills for the last three years. “This deceptive bill will cause death and shorten life, despite its claims,” said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, a leading California-based pro-life, pro-family organization.

“Drying up and shriveling to death through dehydration is a fate worse than lethal injection. By transforming palliative sedation into a vehicle for assisted suicide, AB 2747 would transform doctors and nurses from healers and comforters into killers like Dr. Jack Kevorkian.”

[http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/may/08052901.html Life Site News; ALL Pro-Life Today, 30May08]

By just two votes, the California State Assembly passed a bill yesterday that detractors say allows doctors to push patients toward medically assisted suicide.

The bill, AB 2747, enables doctors to provide a patient declared to have less than one year to live with a long list of end-of-life options, including a last-moments option that looks suspiciously like euthanasia.

Critics of the bill point to a provision that adds “palliative sedation” and VSED (voluntary stopping of eating and drinking) to a patient’s end-of-life options, extreme measures that have been previously reserved for patients within a few hours to a few days of death.

If the bill becomes law, critics say, a doctor could pronounce a patient within a year of death, encourage him to consider complete (sometimes irreversible) sedation, then proceed with VSED until the patient, unconscious and unaware, is starved and dehydrated to death. In effect, the critics argue, this is physician-assisted suicide for anyone deemed “within a year of death.”

Assembly member Patty Berg, who co-sponsored the bill, wrote in California’s Capitol Weekly that AB 2747 merely “requires healthcare providers to give complete answers to their terminal patients.”

The bill itself states that “lack of communication between health care providers and their terminally ill patients can cause problems” and that “those problems are complicated by social issues, such as cultural and religious pressures.” Further, “a recent survey found that providers that object to certain practices are less likely than others to believe they have an obligation to present all of the options to patients and refer patients to other providers.”

Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, a California-based pro-life group, insists, however, “This deceptive bill will cause death and shorten life, despite its claims.”

Thomasson sees an imminent danger that unscrupulous or cost-driven doctors might use the bill’s provisions for communication as license to tell patients their death is coming within the year and move them toward life-ending choices.

“Some people are told they have a year to live,” he points out, “then go on to live healthily for 12.”

He also points out that in a state in which food and hydration are considered “extraordinary measures” in living wills, patients stunned by the news they have less than a year to live may opt for choices that lead directly to their death. Depressed or confused patients might agree to the sedation, then die through VSED.

“Drying up and shriveling to death through dehydration is a fate worse than lethal injection,” says Thomasson. “By transforming palliative sedation into a vehicle for assisted suicide, AB 2747 would transform doctors and nurses from healers and comforters into killers.”

The bill marks the fourth time in four years that Berg has attempted to pass legislation on end-of-life circumstances. Her previous attempts were more clearly euthanasia-related, including a bill last year that would have permitted death by lethal injection.

Berg insists AB 2747 is not of the same mold: “Unlike my previous end-of-life bill,” she wrote, “my new bill doesn’t give anyone any new options. …Some, however, are still fighting last year’s battle and are trying to convince the gullible that my new bill is a Trojan horse, designed somehow to legalize aid-in-dying.”

Thomassom sees the value Berg’s places on “knowing all the options” as misguided.

“People who are ill need support, spiritual care and counseling,” he says, not dire predictions of death and options for dying. “Just as the assisted-suicide bills of the last three years have been rejected, so should the California Legislature reject AB 2747. Assisted suicide by total sedation ignores the sanctity of human life and violates life-affirming medical ethics.”

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[31May08, http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?pageId=65651; LifeSiteNews.com]