Rick Warren Urges Defeat of California Bill Allowing Terminally Ill to Take Their Lives

Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren addresses the audience during the Dignity and Courage at the End of Life conference at Servite High School in Anaheim on Saturday. ED CRISOSTOMO, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren addresses the audience during the Dignity and Courage at the End of Life conference at Servite High School in Anaheim on Saturday.

Stephanie Packer needs a machine to breathe. Doctors have given the 32-year-old mother of four mere months to live.

Packer has been diagnosed with lupus, terminal lung disease and trigeminal neuralgia, a neurological disorder characterized by intense pain in the face, originating from the trigeminal nerve.

The Orange resident, a practicing Catholic, was one of several speakers Saturday at a conference at Servite High School in Anaheim by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange opposing Senate Bill 128, or the End of Life legislation. If passed, the law would give terminally ill Californians the right to end their lives with a lethal drug.

“I have good days and bad days,” Packer said. “I continue to experience intense pain, embarrassment and depression. But not once did it cross my mind that committing suicide is the answer.”

Packer’s sentiments are echoed by Orange County’s faithful, who argue that passing this law, similar to Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, is contrary to Christian teaching.

However, Compassion and Choices, the nonprofit that has been advocating for the passage of the End of Life law, has maintained that terminally ill individuals should have the right to choose the time of their death.

Every dying person “should have access to medical options consistent with their own values and beliefs,” said Toni Broaddus, California campaign director for Compassion and Choices.

“We respect all points of view, and that’s why we support options at the end of life,” she said.

The issue has gained momentum since two videos made by former UC Irvine graduate Brittany Maynard during her last days, stating her decision to move to Oregon to end her life, went viral. Maynard made the decision when she was given six months to live after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.

She died Nov. 1, the date she had picked to die, surrounded by family members and friends. Maynard moved from California to Oregon in early 2014 because assisted death is illegal in her home state.

But faith leaders with significant followings in Orange County say the legislation will do more harm than good.

Even though the California law may be well-intentioned, whatever safeguards are built in likely will disappear with time, said Orange County Roman Catholic Bishop Kevin Vann at Saturday’s conference, titled “Dignity and Courage at the End of Life.”

Vann talked about the death of his father, who passed away peacefully in hospice care at home surrounded by his loved ones. He urged those present to “become missionaries for the dignity of human life” and register their opposition to the proposed legislation, which is making its way through the California Senate.

Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren, who spoke on a panel at the event, warned people not to be apathetic about the issue.

“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,” he said.

Matthew Warren, 27, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 5, 2013.

Warren gave several examples of episodes in the Bible where Moses, Elijah, Jonah and Job begged God to take their lives and put them out of their misery. But, Warren said, God denied each of their requests because he had bigger and better plans for them.

“The prospect of dying can be frightening,” he said, his voice cracking. “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.”

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SOURCE: The Orange County Register
Deepa Bharath

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