Sunday, 26 May 2024

Senate approves Berg's end-of-life information bill

SACRAMENTO – The widespread practice of keeping dying patients in the dark about their options could come to an end under a bill approved Wednesday by the state Senate.

The 21-17 vote on the Senate floor late Wednesday morning puts the bill, AB 2747 by Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka, just one step away from the governor’s desk.

If signed into law, the bill would require health care providers to tell their dying patients all of the decisions they’re likely to face in their final days.

All too often, physicians and other health care providers avoid frank conversations with their dying patients, according to a recent nationwide survey conducted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

In fact, the cancer doctors who conducted the survey found that hardly one in three patients receives an honest assessment of what to expect when facing a terminal illness.

“Better information is better for everyone,” said Berg. “Patients have a right to know what happens next.”

The measure, supported by physicians and considered a step forward in patients’ rights, has drawn opposition that seems disproportionate to its requirements. The reason is simple: in the past three years, Berg and others have pushed for an Oregon-style death-with-dignity law in California.

“People who didn’t like that idea told us California patients already have plenty of options when they are dying,” she said. “But options are only good if you know you have them. This bill makes sure you that you do know.”

AB 2747 adds no new options for the terminally ill.

“It’s about information,” she said. “Nothing more and nothing less.”

The bill now returns for a vote of the full Assembly, which has previously approved the measure. It then goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The measure is supported by the California Medical Association, the California Nurses Association, the Older Women’s League, AIDS Project Los Angeles, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Congress of California Seniors and many other professional and civic groups.

The bill also has faced serious opposition from groups who say it is an attempt to legalize euthanasia.


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