California bill could require doctors to give patients options to refuse life-sustaining treatment


A pending bill in the California state legislature could force Catholic doctors and others opposed to assisted suicide to inform terminally ill patients of several facts, including that they have the “right of refusal or withdrawal from life-sustaining treatment.”

The bill’s official title is the “California Right to Know End-of-Life Act of 2008,” though the Sacramento Bee has characterized it as “right-to-die legislation.”

Assembly Bill 2747 is an amended version of a euthanasia bill previously proposed By Assemblywoman Patty Berg, a Democrat from Eureka, the California Catholic Daily reports.

Opponents called the first version a “stealth assisted-suicide bill.” It would have allowed doctors to administer “palliative sedation” to induce a coma and to starve patients to death under a provision called “voluntary stopping of eating and drinking.”

The original bill also required terminally ill patients to be referred to the group “Compassion & Choices,” a euthanasia advocacy organization formerly called the Hemlock Society.

Though Catholic ethics allow the refusal or withdrawal of medical treatment in some situations, the California Catholic Conference (CCC) says the amended version of the bill is “still unnecessary and possibly dangerous,” calling the new version “less egregious” than its predecessor.

Republican State Sen. Sam Aanestad told the Sacramento Bee that some doctors who treat cancer patients oppose the bill because they believe it interferes with medical care at a time when patients need compassion.

“What they don't need is another governmental intrusion into the relationship between themselves and their doctor,” he said.

Aanestad also argued that requiring doctors to recite “a laundry list developed by Sacramento politicians” years before any refusal of treatment is necessary could encourage depressed patients to make rash decisions to hasten their deaths.

Democratic Sen. Sheila Kuehl told the Sacramento Bee that patients diagnosed with terminal illnesses have the right to have their questions answered.

“Right now, all too often, your questions are brushed aside,” she said.

The bill was approved by the state Senate on August 20 by a vote of 21 to 17. The assembly was expected to approve the bill and send it to the governor this week.

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