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End of life forum at CSUB
May 11, 2005
CONTACT: Jack Turnbull, 661/323-2226 or
Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456 or

Forum Scheduled to Discuss California’s Compassionate Choices Act

The Kegley Institute of Ethics at California State University, Bakersfield, and End-of-Life Choices of Greater Bakersfield will co-sponsor a forum on the ethics of physician assisted suicide. A panel of experts representing healthcare, religion and ethics are scheduled to participate in the forum, which is motivated in part by the “California Compassionate Choices Act,” now under consideration by the Legislature.

The act, AB 654, by Assembly members Patty Berg, D-Eureka, and Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, recently passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee and is expected to see a full Assembly vote by the end of May.

The forum will be held Wednesday, May 18, at 7 p.m. in the CSUB Student Union Multi-Purpose Room. It features Dr. Jennifer A. Black, physician leader, Hospice and Palliative Care, Kaiser Permanente, Kern County; attorney Julie McMurchie, Oregon Compassion and Choices; Christopher Meyers, CSUB philosophy professor; and Monsignor Ronald J. Swett, pastor of St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church. The panel will be moderated by Kern County Superior Court Judge Robert S. Tafoya. The program is free and open to the public. Parking is also free, after 6:30 p.m. in Lot K.

For nearly eight years, Oregon has been the only state in the nation to successfully pass a referendum allowing terminally ill patients the right to end their lives. Now, nearly a decade later, Berg and Levine are using Oregon’s “Death with Dignity Act" as the model for their own legislation that would give the terminally ill permission to ask their doctors for life-ending medication to control their own final days.

AB 654 mirrors the Oregon law in several ways:

  • Patients have to be mentally competent.
  • Two physicians have to confirm the "terminal-six months to live" diagnosis and agree that the patient is capable of making decisions about his or her own care.
  • The patient must make several requests, both written and oral.
  • Most importantly, the patient must self-administer his or her life-ending prescription.

“One of the key pieces from the Oregon law that we’re going to model is that you have to self-administer,” Levine said. “The doctors are there, they write the prescription, but they’re not going to be assisting you in the act.”

Jack Turnbull, a retired attorney and president of the local End-of-Life Choices chapter, sees the benefit of presenting the issue through a public forum. “I’ve talked to many people who do not understand the main points of this legislation," he said. "The event’s open discussion format will allow us to present both sides of the issue so that area residents can come to their own conclusions based on a thorough review of the legislation.”

The Kegley Institute of Ethics serves as a broad educational resource for the Southern San Joaquin Valley area. The Institute hosts regular symposia on ethical issues relevant to all segments of society.

End-of-Life Choices is an affiliate of Compassion and Choices, a national non- profit organization with headquarters in Portland, Ore., and Denver. Created in 2005 through the unification of Compassion in Dying and End-of Life Choices, the organization advocates for freedom of choice at the end-of-life. Its goals are improved care and expanded options at life's end, including comprehensive and effective care for every dying person, and legal and humane aid in dying if suffering is unbearable.

For additional information, please call Jack Turnbull at 661-323-2226.



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