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California Passes ‘Death With Dignity’ Legislation


California lawmakers approved a controversial measure that would allow physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients.

On Wednesday, California’s Assembly sent the legislation to the Senate, which approved a similar measure earlier this year. The final vote was 42 to 33, but voting did not break along party lines.

The End of Life Option Act, modeled on Oregon’s controversial Death with Dignity Act, would require terminally ill patients to submit two oral requests (a minimum of 15 days apart) and one written request to his or her attending physician. The written request must also be signed in front of two witnesses. They must attest that the patient is of sound mind and not being coerced.

The measure, proposed by Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, (D-Stockton) sparked an emotional debate.

“I’m asking you to vote your conscience,” said Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, who voted against the bill. “Vote for the miracles I believe take place each and every day. Each and every day! I’m not gonna give up. I’m not gonna give up. Thank you.”

The legislation must be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. 

The Case Of Brittany Maynard

Brittany Maynard
Right-to-die activist Brittany Maynard

Many right-to-die advocates credit the recent high-profile death of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard for generating support among “Millennials” (adults 18 to 32).

In 2014, Maynard was diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma and was given six months to live. Maynard and her husband, Dan Diaz, moved from California to Oregon to obtain doctor-prescribed barbiturates.

Working with the right-to-die advocacy group Compassion & Choices, Maynard used her story to raise awareness about the practice and inspire other terminally ill Americans to end their lives on similar terms.

“I don’t wake up every day and look at it, I know it’s in a safe spot,” Maynard said in a Compassion & Choices-produced video about her life-ending drug. That video has been viewed more than ten million times on YouTube. “I will pass peacefully with some music I like in the background.”

She ended her life later that year, sparking headlines across the world.

Maynard’s husband and mother were joined by a dozen activists who watched the vote from the Assembly gallery, the LA Times reports.

“There is a sense of pride in the Legislature,” Diaz said. “It reaffirmed the reason Brittany spoke to begin with. The Legislature will no longer abandon the terminally ill where hospice and palliative care are no longer an option. They can have a gentle passing.”

Opposition Remains

However, opponents of such legislation include the Roman Catholic Church, disability rights groups, bioethicists and physician organizations. The American Medical Association, the nation’s largest organization of physicians, opposes the practice.

“Allowing physicians to participate in assisted suicide would cause more harm than good,” according to an AMA statement sent to Life Matters Media. “Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”

Physician-assisted suicide is legal in only a handful of states:  Oregon (the first state to legalize the practice in 1997), Washington (passed by ballot measure), Vermont (passed by state Legislature), New Mexico and Montana (allowed by the courts).

It is unclear whether the bill will be signed by Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student.

2 Thoughts on “California Passes ‘Death With Dignity’ Legislation”

  1. The opponents of Death With Dignity choose to ignore the 20 plus years that this law has been successfully applied in Oregon. None of the “slippery slope’ scenarios have come to pass. Instead, people with terminal illnesses, their friends and families have found compassionate and humane ways to end their lives, find peace and say goodbye. The opposition to this law is fraught with human cynicism that is difficult to comprehend. The disabled are not being euthanized, people are not killing off grandma for the inheritance, people are not killing themselves merely because they are depressed. Look to Oregon. Watch the film HOW TO DIE IN OREGON. Get educated. This law works.

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