By David Cruz
It is not often that lawmakers are burdened with making life and death decisions, but Assembly bill 2270, the so-called Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act represents one such instance. But the controversial measure met with stiff opposition this morning at a press conference with medical professionals, clergy and the disabled.
“It’s a very bad idea. My role as a physician is to say I am with you all the way to the end. Not in life and death but in life all the way because I care for you and about you all the way. There’s no time when it kicks in that I now turn into part-time poisoner, no. I am with you the whole way,” said physician and professor Richard Watson.
The bill is sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, who says recent high-profile events like the suicide of Brittany Maynard in Oregon, has prompted discussion among his constituents. The bill allows a terminally ill patient — six months or less to live — to ask a doctor for a life-ending drug prescription, which the patient would have to self-administer. It calls for a period of reconsideration and other checks and balances, which Burchizelli says is intended to safeguard against patients being pressured by either family or physicians.
“There are many people throughout the state that have raised the question of why they would not be permitted to have a medicinal choice as far as end of life decision making goes and that’s what this discussion is about,” said Burzichelli.
But the bill touches an emotional chord with supporters on both sides, and that was in evidence today at both the press conference and on the Assembly floor.
“I firmly believe that assisted suicide is homicide and those who assist, regardless of their intention, are guilty of taking a life, just as surely as if they’d participated in a state-sanctioned execution,” said Dawn Parkot.
Most of those in support are Democrats, but the issue found support among a few Republicans, who had very personal reasons for breaking with their caucus.
“This is not an easy discussion. People feel very passionately about it and I just wanna be able to allow people who truly need it, some sort of choice, and that’s what this is about,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi.
“How about we just leave families alone to make those decisions for themselves, in the privacy of their own homes and not with respect to having the government overlooking the entire process. Just let them be,” said Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll.
The bill passed with the help of a handful of Republican votes but it faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where it may not even find its way to the floor. But if it does, the consensus is that the governor will veto it. Still, say supporters, the effort opens the issue for further discussion, which, they say, is an important first step.