California assisted-suicide promoters adopt new tactic after defeat in legislature: using religion to help people kill themselves
Physician-assisted suicide advocates, unable to pass legislation in California and lacking support for a ballot initiative campaign, are now setting up a “ministry” to help frail and medically vulnerable people kill themselves.
In June, the co-authors of the assisted-suicide bill, Assembly members Patty Berg and Lloyd Levine, killed AB 374, the “California Compassionate Choices Act,” in committee after it became clear they did not have the votes to pass the measure. The defeat was due largely to the ardent opposition of disability-rights groups.
In late September press conferences held in San Francisco and Los Angeles, representatives of the new End of Life Consultation Service are now proposing to “counsel” terminally ill persons on the best ways to terminate their own existence.
"Volunteers will neither provide nor administer the means for aid in dying," Rev. John Brooke, a United Church of Christ minister from Cotati, told the Medianews Sacramento Bureau. "Clients will obtain and self-administer these means. We will not break or defy the law."
Representatives of End of Life Consultation Service say they will advise the terminally ill on how to obtain better pain treatment and palliative care. Volunteer counselors and a handful of clergy also will advise the terminally ill against “violent” suicide, instead favoring “peaceful” self-termination.
"The positive points about ELCS -- advocating for hospice and palliative care -- must not cloud the fundamental immorality of the consultation itself," Fr. Gerald Coleman, adjunct professor of moral theology at Santa Clara University, told religion reporter Paula Doyle, according to the-tidings.com, the web site of the Los Angeles archdiocesan weekly.
Other pro-suicide groups, such as the Final Exit Network, the Hemlock Society, and End of Life Choices tout suicide methods such as the use of plastic bags and stockpiling drugs. Such groups, often with names that melodiously combine “Compassionate,” “Choice,” “Caring,” and “Dignity” are easy to find on the Internet. California Catholic Daily found dozens of sites and newsgroups using alt.suicide.methods, alt.suicide.holiday, talk.euthanasia and other easy keywords.
Such sites have been abettors in an undisclosed number suicides over the past decade, although their legal liability is murky. Liability would seemingly be more direct for a group like End of Life Consultation Service, however, which will provide ‘counselors,’ including Christian ministers, to make house-calls, and even come to the bedside to “console” their clients as they take their self-administered fatal overdoses.
"This effort to put a clerical collar on Dr. Kevorkian only makes assisted suicide creepier," Tim Rosales of Californians Against Assisted Suicide told California Catholic Daily. He says their activities are “not only risky and dangerous, but sure to open the door to numerous questions regarding coercion and liability."
Randy Thomasson, president of the pro-life Campaign for Children and Families, told the Contra Costa Times that End of Life Consultation Service sounded to him like the formation of "California death squads." Noting that California has laws against suicide, Thomasson called for an investigation by authorities once the consultation service begins.
“What this California group wants to do is morally no different than telling someone standing on a ledge to jump," said Fr. Frank Pavone, president of the National Pro-Life Religious Council in a Sept. 27 statement published by Christian Newswire.
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