A California Senate committee vote Wednesday approving physician-assisted suicide in the state received a swift and disapproving response from the executive director of the California Catholic Conference.
The vote by the Senate Health Committee is "sad and disappointing," said CCC executive director Ned Dolejsi. Senate Bill 128, endorsed by the committee in a 6-2 vote, now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee. If approved there, it will be debated by the full Senate. The Assembly will hold its own hearings on "right to die" legislation.
"We understand and share the concern for the dying expressed at today's hearing. It is a natural impulse for human beings. But when someone asks for assistance in killing themselves, it is really a call for help, care and compassion during the dying process," Dolejsi said in a statement after the vote was taken.
"California law already allows for patients to refuse extraordinary care, but that is a far cry from aiding a patient in actively ending his or her life."
The bill, co-sponsored by Democrats Lois Wolk and Bill Monning, was inspired by Brittany Maynard, a young California woman with terminal brain cancer who moved to Oregon because it has an assisted-suicide law. Maynard, who publicly chose to die with life-ending medication on Nov. 1, released a video arguing that all terminally ill Californians should also be given the right to assisted suicide.
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Dolejsi said since ancient times, doctors have been called to bring "comfort, peace and minimal pain to the dying, not death. With the development of such medical specialties as palliative care, the art and science of caring and comforting the dying has never been so well developed and practiced."
Also opposing the bill is Dr. Warren Fong, president of the Medical Oncology Association of Southern California. He said prescribing medication that would end a person's life is a violation of every doctor's oath to do no harm.
Dolejsi said the California Catholic Conference will continue to vigorously oppose the bill. In an earlier statement, the CCC had called assisted suicide "misguided public policy, which would have numerous detrimental implications for vulnerable people and impact our society negatively."
"We believe that we are stewards -- not owners -- of our lives."