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Will Former Jesuit Governor Jerry Brown Veto Assisted Suicide?

NASA/Bill Ingalls

California Governor Jerry Brown speaks from a podium

John Burger - published on 09/17/15 - updated on 02/02/18

Former Jesuit seminarian Gov. Jerry Brown weighs legislation

The American College of Physicians, a century-old medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States, is urging Gov. Jerry Brown of California to veto legislation that would allow physician-assisted suicide.

“This is a physician-assisted suicide bill,” ACP President Wayne Riley, MD, said in the Sept. 16 letter.

Last week, in a special session the governor called to address healthcare funding in the state, the Assembly and Senate passed in rapid succession “The End of Life Option Act,” which would allow physicians to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally-ill patients who request it.

Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, has not said whether he will sign the bill, but he has reportedly expressed his displeasure that the special session was used to pass a bill that had failed to get out of committee in the regular legislative session this year.

“We are deeply sympathetic to the concerns and fears patients and their families have at the end of life,” Riley wrote. “However, PAS is not the answer and in fact, ACP sees it as abandonment of the dying patient. It is not the role of the physician to give individuals control over the cause and timing of death—the medicalization of suicide.”

Perhaps the governor would do well to heed the words of Bishop Robert Barron, recently ordained to the episcopate and assigned as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In a recent article, Bishop Barron takes note of the coincidence that in the same week the California legislature passed the bill, Harvard University announced that for the first time in its history, it has a freshman class in which atheists and agnostics outnumber professed Christians and Jews.

“If there is no God, then our lives do indeed belong to us, and we can do with them what we want,” Bishop Barron wrote. “If there is no God, our lives have no ultimate meaning or transcendent purpose, and they become simply artifacts of our own designing. Accordingly, when they become too painful or too shallow or just too boring, we ought to have the prerogative to end them. We can argue the legalities and even the morality of assisted suicide until the cows come home, but the real issue that has to be engaged is that of God’s existence.”

Meanwhile, in Belgium, a perfectly healthy woman decided to legally commit suicide after her daughter and husband died, Lifenews reported.

“I have no reason to live anymore, grief is unbearable pain,”Simona De Moor, 85, told the Australian TV show Dateline. “It’s driving me mad and I don’t want to go to a mad house, I want to die.”

The American College of Physicians, in its letter to Brown, voiced concern that physician-assisted suicide “undermines trust in patient-physician relationships and trust in the profession of medicine.”

“We need to ensure that all patients have access to palliative care and hospice services at the end of life rather than promote suicide,” the letter said.

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