Just as Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama was in Denver preaching to a crowd of thousands of fans about the “change” he wants to see in the United States, his party compatriots in the California Legislature were making a “change,” by approving a controversial plan that would allow nurses to assist terminally ill patients with suicide.

“AB 2747 allows a physician assistant or a nurse to opine that a patient is ‘terminal,’ and then push for unnatural death by ‘palliative sedation,'” said Randy Thomasson, chief of the Campaign for Children and Families shortly after the vote.

“Depressed patients who succumb to this pressure will be drugged unconscious and die from dehydration, usually within five to 10 days. Nothing in the bill prohibits this horror,” he said.

Forty-two Democrats in California voted in favor of the plan: 30 Republicans and two Democrats opposed the plan.

“AB 2747 pushes suicide through the back door at the hands of non-physicians taking advantage of depressed patients,” Thomasson said. His organization has been alerting Californians to raise their concerns about the plan for sudden death with floor alerts, phone calls and e-mails.

“AB 2747 cheapens the value of human life by endorsing suicide as an option. Gov. Schwarzenegger should pledge to veto this very dangerous bill,” Thomasson said, describing how the author, Assemblywoman Pattie Berg of Eureka, “deceptively changed” the bill to appear that “voluntarily stopping of eating and drinking” and “palliative sedation” no longer were on a list of “symptom management” options.

But the final bill “is broad enough to easily include these suicide techniques,” Thomasson said.

The specific references to those treatments simply were changed to “other clinical treatments useful when a patient is actively dying.”

According to the CCF report, Assemblyman Van Tran of Costa Mesa warned the bill has no protections for patients “who could be mistakenly diagnosed as ‘terminally ill’ but would have many, many full years of life ahead.”

“The bill does
not otherwise attempt to expressly define terminal illness that each of these
health care professionals would have to diagnose to trigger the offer of counseling
end of life options. It is not clear why nurse practitioners and physician
assistants could make such a significant diagnosis. It is further not clear
from the bill how making such significant diagnoses on a case-by-case basis
can be done by such practitioners and assistants based on so-called ‘standardized
procedures and protocols’ not further defined by the bill. The potential effect
of AB 2747 is extremely broad and could cause irrevocable harm.”

Added Republican Doug La Malfa
of Yuba City: “We really go down a slippery slope when we contemplate the ending
of life in such a way that it could be coerced. You have people in a very precarious
situation, in a very awkward situation, that when thrust upon them with options
to end their life, you have people that may feel like they have no use anymore.
They feel like they’re not of value anymore, and that taking one of these options,
they may feel, is the only way out, that they’ve become a burden to their family
or to someone else. I would hate to put people in that kind of position. They’re
already feeling vulnerable, and now, confronted with ways to end your life – this is a very delicate and, I think, dangerous idea here. You could have
people like heirs that are anxious to get the estate started and quietly coercing
people into making decisions like this.”

“Total sedation (TS) – called by some ‘terminal sedation,’ ‘palliative sedation,’
or ‘slow euthanasia’ – is a protocol recently added to the lexicon of contemporary
medical interventions and is a construct actively promulgated by the National
Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO),” wrote Dr. Howard M. Ducharme,
past chair of the philosophy department at the University of Akron. “It is
defined as ‘the application of pharmacotherapy to induce a state of decreased
or absent awareness (unconsciousness) in order to relieve the burden of otherwise
intractable suffering. However, any quick acceptance of TS would be ill-advised
because of the many ‘devils in the details.'”


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