Abp. Gomez: Bill lets doctor OK meds for 'express purpose' of killing a person

LOS ANGELES -- California's newly passed measure to legalize assisted suicide for the terminally ill "is no way for our government to make policy on a life and death issue that will affect millions of individuals and families," said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez.

"I am deeply disturbed by the California Legislature's decision to allow doctors to help their patients kill themselves," he said.

He made the remarks in a statement issued the night of Sept. 11, not long after the state Senate approved the bill with a 23-14 vote.

The state Assembly passed the bill two days earlier 44-35. It has been sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature, but as of Sept. 14, he had not indicated whether he will sign it.

According to an AP story, the bill requires that a patient with a terminal disease must be physically capable of taking medication that would end his or her life. It says that a patient must submit written requests for the medication, that two doctors must approve the request and that there must be two witnesses.

Archbishop Gomez noted in his statement that in early July, a previous bill to allow doctor-assisted suicide was pulled by its primary sponsors hours before a state Assembly hearing on it. The bill had already passed the state Senate, with votes largely along party lines. But the bill's authors had said it was dead for this year.

However, the Legislature called a special session to deal with a number of issues, including the assisted suicide bill and "chose to rush this legislation through in less than three weeks, holding only two hearings," Archbishop Gomez said.

"As a result, lawmakers did not have any chance to consider the deeper issues raised by end-of-life care in the state," he continued. Those issues, he said, include "the cost of treatments, especially the cost of cancer medications; insurance practices that limit access to hospice care and physicians' options in providing adequate pain relief; the impact of this legislation on the poor and other underserved populations."

"The people of California -- especially the poor, the elderly, minorities and the disabled -- deserve much better from their leaders. And make no mistake, it will be these most vulnerable populations who are going to suffer from this legislation."

Besides Oregon, three other states have laws permitting physician-assisted suicide: Washington, Montana and Vermont.

No votes yet