It may soon become legal for doctors and nurses in California to "help" their patients die if a new assisted suicide bill passes through the state senate.
Last week, AB 2747 made its way to the state senate for its first reading, one day after the state assembly approved the bill narrowly with a 42-34 vote.
If passed, the bill would allow medical practitioners throughout the state to give terminally ill patients judged with less than a year to live the option of receiving sedatives that would subject them to a form of slow, unconscious dehydration and starvation.
While House Democrat and sponsor of the bill, Patty Berg, defended the bill as a measure that would give patients "honest talk" and options about their "medical care." Opponents of the bill say they are appalled.
"Assisted suicide by total sedation ignores the sanctity of human life and violates life-affirming medical ethics," said Randy Thomasson, of the Campaign for Children and Families, in a statement.
But perhaps the biggest criticism of the bill is the argument that the bill would pressure patients who are poor and uninsured to end their life prematurely, even while a terminal diagnosis from a doctor could prove false.
"It is remarkable that the legislature is considering assisted suicide at a time when millions of low-income Californians and their families still have no access to health care. Is the legislature saying to low-income people, 'We won't provide health care, but we will make it easier for you to commit suicide when you're at your most vulnerable and uninsured?' Large numbers of people, particularly among those less privileged in society, would be at significant risk of harm," Californians Against Assisted Suicide expressed in a statement.
"[L]egalizing assisted suicide would allow anxious, depressed patients to become trapped by their own request for death, and die in a state of unrecognized terror, even though the depression can be treated in most cases," the group explained.
The current bill represents the fourth time that the California legislature has attempted to pass an assisted suicide bill. Proponents of the bill hope that this year's version will pass because of its different wording.
"Everything that is illegal now—and that most notably includes physician-aided dying—would remain illegal. AB 2747 changes none of that. Instead, it provides a precious commodity— information (about the option of ending one's life)," Berg said in a statement defending the bill.
CCF's Thomasson disagreed.
"People who are ill need support, spiritual care, and counseling if they're depressed. But AB 2747 would ensure the death of innocent Californians at the hands of an increasingly unscrupulous insurance industry that regards people cheaper dead than alive," he said.
Currently, only Oregon has an assisted suicide law in its books.