The Theologian and the Politician

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

A theologian would not think this way but a politician might—if you have two contrasting bills on the subject of life and death perhaps the middle ground would provide a solution. Governor Jerry Brown—part theologian and all politician—is facing that kind of decision when determining whether to sign or veto the bill tabbed “Right to Die” and another labeled “Right to Try.”

The End of Life Option Act, SB 128, would authorize “an adult who meets certain qualifications, and who has been determined by his or her attending physician to be suffering from a terminal disease to make a request for a drug prescribed pursuant to these provisions for the purpose of ending his or her life.”

Known by some as the Right to Die bill, the measure has received stiff opposition from those who are afraid the option would be used by the disabled or those who want to spare family from dramatic medical costs and/or witnessing loved ones suffer.

A leading opponent of SB 128 is the Catholic Church. The church’s moral teachings were drilled into young seminarian Jerry Brown before he abandoned seeking the role of clergyman and chose a different path.

The Right to Try Act, AB 159, “would permit a manufacturer of an investigational drug, biological product, or device to make the product available to eligible patients with an immediately life-threatening disease.”

AB 159 has opposition from nurses and oncologists, the doctor group warning that clinical trials would be adversely affected by the law.

Both these measures have national implications. California would not be the first state to record either law. Three states have a Right to Die law, 24 states have a Right to Try law. However, the Golden State’s size and status could influence decisions on the federal level on these two issues.

The New York Times felt compelled yesterday to editorialize in support of the Right to Die bill.

So what will Jerry Brown do?

His religious background has influenced his decision making as has his political instincts. The two emotional issues certainly have moral implications. If the governor finds his way to deal with those, then the political solution might present itself: giving a dying person two additional choices they do not have today — experimental drugs to perhaps positively effect life or legal death at the hands of a physician.

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