After ratification, the bill goes to pro-life Governor David M. Beasley for his signature. "South Carolina is once again a leader in putting life ahead of death, in replacing corrupt values with traditional ones. Today's action says that protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not an outdated notion, thanks to the efforts of many people," Beasley said.
State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, the bill's chief sponsor said, "This is a major step forward as we try to restore the sanctity of life to a society that has been treating death as a viable solution to unwanted pregnancies, sickness among the elderly, and the infirm."
The bill provides for a felony conviction and penalties for health care providers who assist someone in committing suicide. Equally important, the bill provides the first ever legislative protection for doctors who are engaged in the practice of palliative care, including the effective use of medication for pain control. The bill permits the use of drugs to control pain even if the use of such drugs may hasten death.
The bill passed the S.C. Senate on April 29 after a hearing in which five physicians, a disabled veteran, and a hospice chaplain, an attorney, and a Catholic priest who also is an attorney testified in favor of the bill. No physician testified against the bill, and the lobbyist for the S.C. Medical Association withdrew his opposition to the bill after bill supporters agreed to drop civil remedies.
"We believe people should have the right to sue a doctor who deliberately kills a patient, but we were willing to give up that aspect of the bill in order to neutralize the SCMA's opposition," said Holly Gatling, executive director of South Carolina Citizens for Life. The bill was written by the National Right to Life Committee, the parent organization of SCCL and promoted through the state's pro-life grassroots network.
Wayne Cockfield, a disabled Vietnam War veteran from Florence, S.C., who testified in favor of the bill, said, "The passage of this bill will extend some protection to the disabled who are considered in today's society as being less worthy and having less value than the non-disabled. The poor, the disabled, the chronically ill, and the elderly will never be completely safe from those who want to deny us life until the sanctity of all life from conception until natural death is once again the norm in this country."