STATEMENT ON CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE'S APPROVAL OF ASSISTED SUICIDE BILL SB2X-15

By Archbishop Gomez
September 11, 2011

I am deeply disturbed by the California legislature’s decision to allow doctors to help their patients kill themselves. This is no way for our government to make policy on a life and death issue that will affect millions of individuals and families.

Just a few months ago, after a long and substantial debate, the Assembly Health Committee wisely decided not to advance this legislation. But Assembly and Senate leaders chose to override this decision and push this bill in an “extraordinary” legislative session called to deal with other issues. They chose to rush this legislation through in less than three weeks, holding only two hearings.

As a result, lawmakers did not have any chance to consider the deeper issues raised by end-of-life care in the state — 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.

Already, we know that poor families, African Americans, Latinos and immigrants do not have access to quality health care and they have limited treatment options when they face a serious or terminal illness.

In a health care system that is cost-conscious and profit-driven, do we really imagine that these vulnerable populations will have a “choice” to receive end-of-life care once we make lethal prescriptions an acceptable “treatment option”?

I am deeply concerned for the millions of our brothers and sisters who are relying on Medi-Cal and other forms of subsidized health care. This legislation gives them no explicit rights or guarantees that they will be able to choose to be treated and cared for rather than to kill themselves.

We need to be clear about our language so we can understand what the legislature is really doing here. It is not legalizing “aid in dying.” What the legislature is legalizing is the ability of a doctor to write prescriptions for the express purpose of killing another human being.

Is this the legacy that we want to leave for future generations of Californians? To say that in the face of human suffering, as a society we responded by making it easier to kill those who are suffering?

This legislation only deepens the divides in our society along the lines of race, ethnicity and income. The reality is that millions of Californians do not have the luxury to advocate for “death” with dignity. They are too busy struggling against poverty, discrimination, disability, illness and crime. It should be government’s mission to help people live with dignity — not to offer them more options to kill themselves.

This legislation — and the process by which it was passed — is not worthy of our great State, which continues to do so much to promote human dignity and equality of access to health care. I believe it should be vetoed.

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