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News Notes

August 1999

California Hastened Death Bill on Hold

A California legislative effort to legalize physician-assisted dying made it through two committees before being put on hold for the rest of the year. Assemblywoman Dion Aroner's bill, modeled after Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, would allow terminally ill patients to hasten their death with medication from their attending physician.

Aroner has promised to take up the bill in the next legislative session early next year. "We're going to try to get the Legislature up to where the general public is, because clearly the public supports this," said Aroner after putting the bill on hold.

A recent Field Poll showed 75 percent of Californians in favor of physician-assisted death for the terminally ill.

Sampson Honored By Alaska Civil Liberties Union

Kevin Sampson was recognized as Alaska's Civil Libertarian of the Year at a ceremony hosted by the Alaska Civil Liberties Union July 15.

Sampson is a co-plaintiff in Compassion in Dying-led litigation seeking to overturn Alaska's ban on physician-assisted dying. Oral arguments for that case are scheduled for Aug. 9 at 3 p.m. in the new Alaska State Courthouse in Anchorage.

Sampson earned his most recent honor for his activism for Alaska's medical marijuana initiative, against the constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage and his participation in the above-mentioned court case.

Sampson, who has since died, was active in AIDS issues, a board member of the Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association and a volunteer providing in-home care for people with AIDS.

U.K. Doctors Allowed to Let Patients Die

British doctors can withdraw medical treatment from terminally ill patients to allow them to "die with dignity," said the British Medical Association recently. And in some cases, it says, such treatments can be stopped even for patients who are not about to die.

Proponents say the advice stops well short of any encouragement for doctors to actively give treatment to hasten or bring about death. That is still illegal under U.K. law.

Dr. Michael Wilks, chairman of the BMA's Ethics Committee, which drew up the guidance, said it would encourage a "compassionate" approach by doctors. Added Professor Raanon Gillon, an Ethics Committee member, "This is not about euthanasia, it's about an intention to withdraw useless or non-beneficial interventions."

Poll Reveals Canadian Doctors Want Assisted Dying For Themselves

Although a majority of Canadian doctors report an unwillingness to provide assistance to hasten death, a strong minority would want it for themselves and for family members who are terminally ill, according to a new study.

Of 1,855 practicing physicians who responded to the survey, 57 percent said they would be opposed to assisted dying if it were legalized, but 40 percent would want it for themselves if they were terminally ill and 38 percent would want it for terminally ill loved ones.

The results of the survey, conducted in 1995, are reported this month in the Annals RCPSC, the peer-reviewed journal of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

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This article was provided by Compassion in Dying. It is a part of the publication Compassion in Dying.