The Bay Area Hemlock Society, led by Berkeley-based Rev. Dennis Kuby, will kick off a new effort to legalize physician-assisted suicide Sunday afternoon with a meeting at Northbrae Community Church.
“Our people are going to confront the politicians,” said Kuby. “We’re planning to become rather militant about this.”
Kuby said he is organizing supporters locally and statewide to lobby their representatives on the controversial issue.
California voters rejected a 1992 ballot initiative, by a 54 to 46 percent margin, to legalize assisted suicide.
In 1999, 14th District Assemblywoman Dion Aroner introduced legislation to legalize the practice, but it died in committee.
A discussion group, composed of legislators on both sides of the issue, is currently meeting and will report to the Select Committee on Palliative Care, which is focused on issues of chronic pain, this summer.
“I’m not naive,” said Hans Hemann, Aroner’s legislative director. “I don’t predict that they will come to a consensus on physician-assisted suicide.”
Kuby said he supports legislation similar to the Oregon physician-assisted suicide law passed by voters in 1997. That law requires a patient to be 18 or older, capable of communicating health care decisions and diagnosed by two doctors with an illness that will lead to death within six months.
Dr. Joel Fort of El Cerrito, who advises the Bay Area Hemlock Society, said patients in severe pain should have the opportunity to end their suffering through physician-assisted suicide.
But, he added that the safeguards built into the Oregon law are essential. “I think it should be screened carefully,” he said.