Berg proposes assisted-suicide bill

February 18, 2007 12:00 am

SACRAMENTO (AP) — Democratic lawmakers on Thursday introduced a bill allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients, marking the third such attempt in as many years and drawing a swift response from a wide range of critics.

"Some people say that this bill is about suicide. It is not," said Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka, one of three co-authors. "Suicide is when you can live but you chose to die. This bill, on the other hand, deals with people who do not have a choice about dying."

Berg's assembly district includes Del Norte COunty.

The California Compassionate Choices Act would make California the second state in the nation to allow doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs. It is modeled after an Oregon law upheld last year by the Supreme Court.

Similar bills failed each of the past two years. Boosting the chances of this year's effort is the endorsement of Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, a Catholic who said both his church and mother do not approve.

"There is no question that this topic stirs a lot emotion and a lot of debate," Nunez said during a Thursday news conference. "I think when you pare it down to its essence, however, this is about how people are going to live their last days of their life."

Opponents include the California Medical Association, certain religious organizations and groups advocating for seniors, the poor and the disabled.