Rick Warren Joins Faith Leaders in Condemning California Right-to-Die Senate Bill 128 That Would Allow Patients to Kill Themselves

( [email protected] ) Apr 14, 2015 11:41 AM EDT
California Right-to-Die bill
Senate Bill 128 or the ''End of Life Legislation,'' would allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill patients who want to commit suicide. The practice is currently legal in five states. Photo Courtesy: Broder Medicine / MGN

Rick Warren, prominent author and Pastor of Saddleback Church, has voiced his opposition to California Senate Bill 128, which if passed, would give terminally ill people in the state the right to end their own lives.

Speaking at conference on Saturday, Warren explained that he opposes the bill not only as a theologian, but also as a father of a son who took his own life after battling mental illness.

"I oppose this law as a theologian and as the father of a son who took his life after struggling with mental illness for 27 years," Warren said, referring to his son, Matthew, who took committed suicide in 2013 after struggling with depression for many years.

Warren cited several Bible examples wherein Moses, Elijah, Jonah and Job begged God to take their lives and put them out of their misery. However, God denied each of their requests because He had better plans for their lives.

"The prospect of dying can be frightening," he added. "But we belong to God, and death and life are in God's hands. ... We need to make a radical commitment to be there for those who are dying in our lives."

Senate Bill 128 or the "End of Life Legislation," would allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill patients who want to commit suicide. While committing suicide is not illegal in California, it is illegal for a doctor to prescribe drugs to help someone kill themselves. Currently, the right-to-die practice for terminally ill patients is legal in five states, including Oregon, where assisted suicide advocate Brittany Maynard famously ended her life at the age of 29.

Pastor Warren is not the only one to oppose SB 128; the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and other faith groups have also argued it directly violates Biblical principles.

"The claim to a right to assisted suicide raises many questions, not the least of which is this: if there is a 'right to assisted suicide,' why would such a right be restricted only to those in the throes of terminal illness?" the diocese asked.

"What about the elderly person suffering a slow but non-terminal decline? What about the adolescent or young adult in the throes of depression, demoralization, or despair? What about the middle-aged man who is alone and simply tired of life?"

The diocese added: "While laws may initially erect fences around the practice of assisted suicide - having six months to live, being over the age of 18, having mental capacity, etc.- these 'safeguards' will eventually be unmasked as arbitrary."

However, Compassion and Choices, a nonprofit group advocating for the law argued that terminally ill people should have access to medical options "consistent with their own values and beliefs."

"We respect all points of view, and that's why we support options at the end of life," said Toni Broaddus, California campaign director for Compassion and Choices.

Rev. Sian Wiltshire, minister at the Orange County Unitarian Universalist Church in Costa Mesa, echoed Broaddus' sentiments, arguing that patients should be allowed to choose the time of their death.

"Our church affirms that life is a wonderful gift," she said. "But we also believe that there comes a time when that gift is no longer useable. People have the right to do what is right for their bodies."

According to CBS News, California previously failed to pass right-to-die legislation in 2005 and 2006 thanks to objections from Catholic and medical groups.