US lawmakers see new push for assisted suicide
Updated: 2006-01-18 10:17
A US Supreme Court ruling backing Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law
gives a major boost to a similar measure languishing in the California
legislature since last year, lawmakers said on Tuesday.
In a file photo
Ruth Gallaid, from Eugene, Or., shows support for physician assisted
suicide in front of the Supreme Court Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2005 in
Washington. The Supreme Court on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2005, upheld Oregon's
one-of-a-kind physician-assisted suicide law, rejecting a Bush
administration attempt to punish doctors who help terminally ill patients
"I believe we will get this bill
passed this year and signed by the governor," said Assemblyman Lloyd Levine,
co-author of a law to allow state residents to obtain lethal medication if they
had less than six months to live.
Levine, a Democrat, spoke after the US Supreme Court rejected legal arguments
by the Bush Administration seeking to strike down Oregon's pioneering Death with
Dignity Act. Under that law unique in the United States, about 240 terminally
ill people since 1997 have turned to doctors to end their lives.
"I think it's going to provide great momentum for Assemblyman Levine and
myself to move our bill forward," Patty Berg, co-sponsor of the California bill,
told a telephone news conference.
"There were several members who said we should wait until the Supreme Court
rules," she said, adding that a legislative battle still was ahead: "We still
have some convincing to do."
The proposed law suggests that terminally ill Californians have the
opportunity to say: "I request that my attending physician prescribe medication
that will end my life in a humane and dignified manner."
Last April the California Assembly's judiciary committee approved the bill,
which would require two oral requests and a written request over a 15-day
period. The measure has since languished, and is awaiting review by the
California Senate's judiciary committee in March.
Sponsors say it could go to the full legislature by May.
The bill would require approval by both houses and signature by Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger before becoming law.
Schwarzenegger "has indicated through his staff that he is certainly open to
this," Levine said.
At a separate news conference on Tuesday, Republican Schwarzenegger, who is
seeking re-election in November, did not reveal his position on the issue,
saying he would need to review any related legislation.
A number of California groups have expressed strong opposition to an
assisted-suicide law, including the California Catholic Conference and the
California Medical Association.
Vermont is considering similar legislation. Some nations, including the
Netherlands and Belgium, have in recent years allowed assisted suicide and