Supporters of Physician-Assisted Suicide Measure Say Schwarzenegger Could Consider the Bill
Supporters of a bill (AB 654) that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in some cases said a senior aide to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last week indicated that the governor would consider the issue, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
According to bill proponents, Richard Costigan, Schwarzenegger's legislative secretary, said the governor was "very open-minded" toward the bill.
However, Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger's press secretary, said the governor had not yet taken a position on the bill (Hubbell, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/19).
The bill, sponsored by Assembly members Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) and Patty Berg (D-Eureka), would allow some patients diagnosed as having no more than six months to live to end their lives with a self-administered prescription. The patient would be required to complete a series of patient-doctor consultations that generally last a minimum of two weeks.
The bill is modeled after an Oregon law enacted in 1998 that requires a person seeking a lethal prescription to make three separate requests, two verbal and one in writing. The bill also requires a 15-day waiting period. To receive a prescription, a person must be at least 18 years old, diagnosed with six months or less to live and deemed mentally competent. If a doctor believes the patient is depressed or otherwise mentally impaired, a psychological examination must be conducted.
Under AB 654, a person's terminal condition would have to be diagnosed by two physicians, and a patient who has been diagnosed as having depression would not receive a lethal prescription. The bill does not authorize lethal injections, mercy killings or euthanasia (California Healthline, 4/11).
Levine said aides to the governor described Schwarzenegger as a "social moderate," adding that the governor "understands that this is a tough personal issue, and we're very open to it." Levine added that Schwarzenegger's stance was "excellent" for bill proponents, noting that the bill is under "a higher level of scrutiny" than other proposals.
Assembly member Ray Haynes (R-Murrieta), who opposes the bill, said he believes the governor will join opposition to the measure "once he becomes educated to what the issues are."
The Assembly Judiciary Committee last week approved the bill. The bill would have to be approved in a second committee vote next month, as well as by both houses of the Legislature, before it could go to Schwarzenegger for consideration.
According to the Chronicle, the Department of Health Services is preparing an assessment of the bill for Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Kim Belshe, who then will recommend a position on the bill to the governor (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/19).