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Insights: Assisted Suicide Becomes Legal in California

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June 3, 2016

California Legalizes Assisted Suicide Next Week

On June 9, 2016, in what the Bishops of California have called a “travesty of compassion,” physicians in California will legally be allowed to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to a patient.

Despite bi-partisan opposition and being defeated in the regular legislative session, the End-of-Life Option Act was passed in a special, abbreviated session with limited hearings and altered committee membership.

Those in favor of the law assured opponents that no expansion of physician-assisted suicide has occurred in other locations where the practice is legal.  Yet, the Governor is now proposing to pay for the lethal prescription of more than 400 Medi-Cal patients next year despite the fact that those same patients do not have access to palliative care and other quality care options.  Only nine of those Medi-Cal patients are projected to receive a psychiatric evaluation (which the law does not require.)

Another lawmaker attempted to establish an assisted suicide information telephone line – with a price tag of about half of what the state pays for suicide prevention.  (The bill stalled in Committee last week but it is now being proposed in the state budget.)

The hastening of death by a physician is such a fundamental shift in the doctor-patient relationship that Catholic hospitals and many other secular healthcare providers such as hospice programs and physicians have already stated that they will not participate in the law. 

Alleviating suffering and caring for the sick and dying are foundational principles of the Catholic faith.  The Church has been aiding the sick for centuries and will not stop caring for the ill and dying in all aspects of their spiritual, emotional and physical realities.  In fact, early Christians were known for staying to care for the ill when plagues devastated ancient cities and the remainder of the population abandoned the sick.

People at one of their most vulnerable periods of life should never be made to feel a burden to others.  It is at these periods in which they deserve to be accompanied on their journey and to feel the embrace of the community’s care and compassion.

The Bishops of California and various Catholic health care providers in the state have renewed their commitment to the sick so that no one feels they need to choose physician-assisted suicide. 

For more, Catholic end-of-life teaching, visit our Embracing Our Dying page or for more on the political maneuvering that resulted in the passage of this law, visit our End-of-Life Issues page.

Catholic Advocacy Day Bills Update

The last day for bills to pass out of their house of origin is today, June 3.  Catholic Advocacy Day Bills that have already cleared their original house and are progressing through the legislative process include:

  • AB 1276 - Child witnesses:  Human Trafficking
  • AB 2590 – Sentencing: Restorative Justice

One bill that we opposed was SB 1002 - End of Life Option Act: telephone number.  This effort to expand physician-assisted suicide did not make it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee so it will remain in the Suspense File.

Other Catholic Advocacy Day issues were budget items.  The budget must be signed by June 30 meaning that negotiations will progress rapidly through June.  We are optimistic that the repeal of the Maximum Family Grant rule will be included in the final budget. Both houses support this repeal.

Efforts are still underway to have the K-12 Teacher Professional Development Tax Relief/Incentives included in the budget and to have the Aid-in-dying prescription drugs: coverage for Medi-Cal beneficiaries omitted from the budget. 

Thank you for your efforts to get these bills passed or defeated. Your voice was heard by lawmakers and is making a difference.

For more information on these bills please visit our Catholic Advocacy Day page.

June 7 – Election Day Information

The California Primary Election is coming up this Tuesday, June 7.  Visit the Secretary of State website to check your voter registration status, look up your polling place and find early-voting locations.

"We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern." - Pope Francis

Documents, backgrounders, bulletin inserts and other materials that can help Catholics stay informed during the 2016 election cycle, as well as advance the common good through active participation in society, are available on our Faithful Citizenship Resource page.

USCCB Issues Annual Child Protection Report

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection and the National Review Board released its 2015 Annual Report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People May 20.  

Protection and prevention efforts continue being a priority. Over 4.3 million children and 2.4 million adults have been trained to identify the warning signs of abuse and how to report them. Over 99 percent of priests (35,987), deacons (16,251), educators (162,803), and 98 percent volunteers (1,930,262) and candidates for ordination (6,473), and 97 percent (260,356) of other employees received training.

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End-of-Life Education Resources

With the advent of legalized physician-assisted suicide comes a teachable moment to help people examine and appreciate the rich, compassionate nature of Catholic end-of-life teachings.

A collection of material suitable for distribution in parishes as bulletin inserts, are available in both English and Spanish – inserts include summaries of Catholic teaching on end-of-life, a pastoral guide and information on hospice. 

Visit our Embracing Our Dying page for comprehensive information, links and other resources to help in discussions, answering questions and for a deeper understanding.


June 3, 2016      
Vol. 9, No. 19

En Español