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Bill Allowing Terminal Patients To Get Life-Ending Drugs Passes Committee

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Aired 4/19/09

A controversial measure that would legalize the process called "physician assisted suicide" by some - and "aid-in-dying" by others -was passed by a state Assembly committee Tuesday. From Sacramento, Marianne Russ reports.

The bill would allow a terminally ill patient with six months or less to live, and a sound mind, to get life-ending medication. Seventy-seven-year old Tom McDonald of Butte County has terminal cancer. He came to the packed hearing to ask lawmakers to give people like him that choice.

McDonald: Which would allow my wife to be with me at the end to say goodbye with a kiss at a moment of our choosing. 

Holly Swiger with the California Hospice and Palliative Care Association opposes the measure. She says the real issue is better care.

Swiger: Any person with the will and the means can commit suicide at this time. To pass this legislation would send a signal to the public that we are not willing to do the harder work of developing public policy that would assure excellent pain and symptom management at the end of life.

Other opponents include the California Medical Association and Catholic churches. Supporters include Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, who is a co-author, and the ACLU. The bill moves next to a fiscal committee.

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