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Assisted suicide bill fails in California legislature

[JURIST] A two-year campaign to pass a physician-assisted suicide law in California [JURIST news archive] has failed by one vote in a legislative committee. The state's Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] voted 3-2 on Tuesday to reject the California Compassionate Choices Act [legislative materials; AB 651 text, PDF; advocacy website], which was modeled on Oregon's Death With Dignity Act [text, PDF]. The bill would have permitted physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs for terminally ill patients who underwent examinations, repeatedly expressed their wishes and abided by a two-week waiting period. Doctors could have refused to prescribe the medication, and patients would have had to administer it themselves.

The committee's two Republican members voted against the bill, but the decisive vote was cast by Sen. Joe Dunn [official profile], a Democrat who said he worried that future legislators would expand the legislation to patients who are incapacitated or incompetent, as the Netherlands has considered [CNN report; Dutch government materials]. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) [official website] has suggested that the issue should be put on the ballot for voters, but the director of Compassion & Choices [advocacy website], a group that lobbied for the failed bill, said a ballot measure would be too expensive and too controversial. Other supporters pledged to try to resurrect the legislation. Reuters has more. The Los Angeles Times has additional coverage.

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