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Statement of the California Catholic Conference on Governor Brown Signing ABx2-15 to Legalize Physician-Assisted Suicide

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October 5, 2015

(En EspañolThe Bishops of California, have issued the following statement after Governor Brown signed ABx2-15 (Eggman) the End-of-Life Option Act:

“The physician-assisted suicide legislation (ABx2-15) signed today by Governor Brown makes it legal to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to assist terminally ill patients to take their own life.  This law stands in direct contradiction to providing compassionate, quality care for those facing a terminal illness.

“All 48 Catholic hospitals in California provide excellent palliative care services as all medical facilities for terminally ill patients should but often do not.  As Catholic Bishops in California we join hands with the disability rights groups, physicians, other health care professionals, and advocates for the elderly in opposing physician-assisted suicide as the wrong way to advance the human dignity for those facing a terminal illness.

“Pope Francis has warned us about our "throw away culture."  Have we become so callous in protecting the sacredness of life that we easily approve of a physician handing over a lethal dose of drugs to someone to end their life at their most vulnerable moment when they most need to be cared for with love and attention?

“We are particularly disappointed that the very real concerns and risks posed to our brothers and sisters in vulnerable communities of the disabled and elderly have been consistently ignored by our state’s elected officials.  In a health care system grappling with constantly escalating costs, the elderly and disabled are in great peril now that assisted suicide has become legal.  Application of such a law elsewhere shows that the option to offer the low-cost alternative of lethal drugs instead of proper medical care is a temptation not long resisted.

“For vulnerable people, this isn’t compassion.  There’s nothing in this law that supports or promotes the common good.  This bill does nothing to validate the lives of the vulnerable.  If anything, this bill says just the opposite and only serves to increase their emotional burden.  And it facilitates subtle but potent pressures on the elderly and the disabled to end their lives rather than become a financial or emotional burden on their children.

“Nothing illustrates what is wrong with this bill more than how it got to Governor Brown’s desk having failed to even get out of committee in the normal legislative process.  In a special legislative session called to help fix a $1 billion gap in Medi-Cal funding and other health-financing issues, the Legislature and Governor did not address the problems nor offer ways to bring down the cost of healthcare.  Millions of people on Medi-Cal are still not eligible for palliative or other ‘end-of-life care.’  Instead, lawmakers’ solution to bringing down health care costs is to allow physicians to end a person’s life.  This will adversely affect the poor, as those with resources will always have access to palliative care.  This is not compassion.                

“The California Catholic Conference has been very proud to work with Californians Against Assisted Suicide and its partners from the disability-rights community, advocates for the elderly, physicians’ groups and other health care professionals during the debate on physician-assisted suicide.  We thank all these members and the thousands of Catholics throughout the state who expressed their opposition for their outstanding work and we will continue to stand with them in efforts to protect the most vulnerable Californians.”