That’s the page 1 story in my local paper this morning (Thursday, March 26). The California State Senate Health Committee passed SB 128 by a 6-2 margin. The debate was accompanied by the usual testimonials, including one videotaped by Brittany Maynard before her suicide.
Opponents raised appropriate arguments against the bill. Perhaps the key statement was made by Dr. Warren Fong, president of the Medical Oncology Association of Southern California, who said that physician-assisted suicide “is against everything a physician stands for.”
Bingo. The key argument against PAS, in my view, is that it fundamentally alters the nature of medicine by abolishing the Hippocratic divide between the healer and the executioner. This is a more essential argument than the (also correct) consequentialist arguments about the risks of abuse, etc., about which I have posted on several occasions in the past. Note also that, even if one’s motivation against PAS is ultimately driven by a belief in God, theism is not required to adopt the position that Dr. Fong took. As such, it is not “epistemologically privileged” in any way that can be disqualified from public policy-making on grounds of liberal neutrality, nor is opposition to PAS simply a matter of my “imposing my morality” on someone else.
Legalizing PAS would be a terrible mistake. Regrettably, my paper says that a recent poll it took in San Diego, where I live, showed that 56 percent of those polled would support this bill, 26 percent would oppose it, and 16 percent were not sure.
Next step is the California Senate Judiciary Committee. After that, passage of both houses of the legislature is required, then the governor’s signature. I certainly plan to beseech my representatives, and the governor, to oppose SB 128. Governor Brown is said to have studied for a time, years ago, to be a Catholic priest, so it may not be a slam-dunk even if it gets to his desk.