California moved a step closer to legalized mercy killing on Sept. 30, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law the “California Right to Know End-of-Life Act of 2008.”
The governor’s signature came in a flurry of bill signing on Tuesday evening, just hours before the statutory deadline for him to either sign or veto legislation. The governor’s press office announced he had signed the euthanasia bill at 7 p.m.
The bill, AB 2747, by longtime assisted suicide advocate Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka, could force Catholic physicians and other doctors in California who oppose mercy killing to provide terminally ill patients with information on morally questionable “end-of-life care options.”
Schwarzenegger’s decision to sign the bill came despite heavy lobbying against it by the California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops. The Conference had asked Catholics to contact the governor and urge him to veto AB 2747 after it was passed by the legislature. Schwarzenegger describes himself as a Catholic.
An email alert sent via the Catholic Legislative Network called the bill “unnecessary, dangerous and widely opposed.” Saying the measure “opens the door for pro-assisted suicide groups in health-care,” the alert characterized AB 2747 as “dangerous and inappropriate.”
Before the bill made it to the governor’s desk, however, it had been repeatedly amended and watered down as a result of lobbying by the California Catholic Conference, the California Disability Alliance and the Foundation for Independent Living Centers, among others. Berg’s original bill would have allowed doctors to administer “palliative sedation” to deliberately induce a coma, and to starve patients to death under a provision called “voluntary stopping of eating and drinking.”
Under the bill signed by Schwarzenegger, physicians will be required to inform terminally ill patients, among other things, that they have the “right of refusal or withdrawal from life-sustaining treatment.”
The measure cleared the legislature on Aug. 28 after the Assembly voted 42-34 to agree to amendments made in the state Senate, which had approved the bill 21 to 17 on Aug. 20.
The bill’s official legislative title -- the “California Right to Know End-of-Life Act of 2008” – was described by the Aug. 21 Sacramento Bee as “right-to-die legislation.” Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, told the Bee that doctors who treat cancer patients have expressed opposition to Berg’s bill because they consider it government meddling at a time when patients need compassion. "What they don't need is another governmental intrusion into the relationship between themselves and their doctor," Aanestad told the newspaper. Worse, said Aanestad, requiring physicians to provide "a laundry list developed by Sacramento politicians" years before it might be necessary could lead depressed patients to make rash decisions and hasten their deaths before all possible treatments are tried. California Catholic Daily