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Video: Competing Capitol rallies urge action on assisted death

Video: Competing Capitol rallies urge action on assisted death

On opposite sides of the Capitol grounds in 2015, supporters and opponents of assisted death called on Gov. Jerry Brown to sign or veto the controversial bill.
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On opposite sides of the Capitol grounds in 2015, supporters and opponents of assisted death called on Gov. Jerry Brown to sign or veto the controversial bill.

The political question of the moment is whether Gov. Jerry Brown will sign Assembly Bill X2-15, the controversial proposal that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients. On Thursday, advocates on opposing sides of the issue took to opposite sides of the Capitol urging him to act.

Supporters rallied first on the south steps, dressed in yellow and chanting “Yes we can!” They were joined by Dan Diaz, who choked up as he mentioned his pride in late wife Brittany Maynard, the California woman suffering from brain cancer who famously moved to Oregon last fall to take advantage of the state’s assisted death law.

Despite proponents’ criticisms of the role the Catholic Church played in lobbying against the bill, the event was a notably religious affair. Elizabeth Wallner, a Sacramento woman with colon cancer, spoke of her Catholic upbringing and her belief that “my higher power is okay with this decision.”

The Rev. Madison Shockley, of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, called assisted death “a personal decision and often a very spiritual decision,” adding, “I’ve become convinced that this end-of-life option can provide the kind of peace that God wants for all of us.”

Opponents gathered soon after on the north steps with shouts of “Veto, veto, veto!” Decked in red, disability rights activists decried profit-driven insurance companies and inadequate health care services that might drive vulnerable patients to choose assisted death.

“Kill the bill, not the ill,” the crown intoned in a call-and-response. “We won’t take your deadly pill.”

Catherine Campisi, former director of the California Department of Rehabilitation, said the bill marginalizes people with disabilities by failing to draw a clear line between disability and terminal illness. “All human beings have dignity,” she said.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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