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ASSISTED SUICIDE

Resurrecting euthanasia

June 25, 2006|Swati Pandey

ON TUESDAY, the state Senate's Judiciary Committee held hearings on an assisted-suicide bill, more than a year after it was last discussed. The legislation, nearly identical to an Oregon law that remains the only one of its kind in the nation, is scheduled to come to a committee vote this week.

Co-written by Assembly members Patty Berg (D-Eureka) and Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), the bill mirrors the Oregon law's requirements of a 15-day waiting period, a second opinion on a patient's status as terminally ill and assurance that a patient's decision was not made under any duress before doctors could provide him with medication to end his life.

The California bill also requires a patient seeking physician-assisted suicide to undergo a psychological evaluation. Berg and Levine proposed similar legislation last year, but it never came to a floor vote because of a lack of support.

Some, notably Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, believe that the issue should be put before the people, as it was in Oregon. Californians defeated such a ballot measure in 1992.

In the first eight years of the Oregon law, 240 people ingested the medicine prescribed under the measure, according to a state report released in March.

Although the number of people opting to die under the assisted-suicide law has risen annually, the total number remains small; last year, only about one in 800 committed suicide under the law, according to the Oregon report. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January that the Oregon measure was constitutional.

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-- Swati Pandey

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