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SPECIAL AUDIO REPORT: Supporters, Opponents Debate Assisted Suicide Bill

In an interview for a California Healthline special audio report, supporters and opponents of physician-assisted suicide address a bill (AB 651) that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs for terminally ill patients (Rebillot, California Healthline, 4/10).

Under the bill, terminally ill patients would have to be declared mentally competent by two doctors and wait for 15 days before they would be able to request a lethal prescription to self-administer (California Healthline, 3/27).

Assembly member Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), co-sponsor of the legislation, said that he sees the issue of assisted suicide as a civil right. “Regardless of the procedure — whether it’s knee surgery, or cancer, or end-of-life decision, it’s up to each one of us to decide in our own way — with our doctors, our family, our God, in whatever order we choose, for our own lives,” Levine said.

Robert Miller, an oncologist in Sacramento and spokesperson for the California Medical Association and for the Association of Northern California Oncologists, cited 2005 statistics from Oregon residents’ use of the state’s physician-assisted suicide law finding that the median relationship length between the prescribing physician and patient was eight weeks. “It seems to me that in a decision as complicated, just as emotional as this that the best physician to help a patient make this decision is someone who has known the person for a long time,” Miller said.

The audio report also includes comments from Carole van Aelstyn, a former hospice nurse who directs client services for the California office of Compassion & Choices (California Healthline, 4/10).

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