Right to Die bill sparks local debate

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A new law in California gives people who are terminally ill the right to take their own lives. Governor Jerry Brown signed the controversial legislation on Monday.

Tim Kutzmark who is minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno has been dealing with death his whole career, "it's hard to watch but it's a lot harder to be the person going through it."

He has watched friends deteriorate from disease and has stood by people from his church in their final days.

"I think of Wendy, an 80 year old who had bone cancer," Kutzmark added, "every time they moved her in hospice, she would scream in agony and no amount of medication could take away that pain."

The experience changed his life and his opinion on what is called, "the right to die," - new legislation giving the terminally ill the option to take their own lives with a lethal dose of prescription drugs.

"When you look into the eyes of someone who just wants to be in peace, hearts change and minds change," Kutzmark said.

Catholic leaders haven't changed their minds. They oppose the new law, they are disappointed with the governor and how politicians got the bill to his desk. In a statement, the Bishops of California said there is concern for the elderly and the poor and called the bill a contradiction to providing "compassionate, quality care."

In the Central Valley, there are doctors on both sides of the issue. Action News reached out to many but only one wanted to comment publicly.

Dr. Hemant Dhingra said, "if I have to choose for myself or my family member, I will definitely consider this option as a tool, I may or may not practice it but I have that option."

Kutzmark says there is comfort in that option - comfort some people he was close to, didn't have in death, "to force somebody like that to wait day after day, rather than treating him with dignity to me, that is the sin."
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