The California Legislature has approved a bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, Reuters reported Friday. The measure had been met with fierce opposition by advocates for the disabled and religious groups, but it won legislative passage after weeks of debates and hearings.
The state Assembly OK’d the bill by a 43-34 vote Wednesday, and the state Senate passed it by a 23-14 vote Friday. Gov. Jerry Brown now will either sign it into law or veto it. A former Roman Catholic seminarian, the governor has not given many hints about what his decision will be, the New York Times reported.
Although the measure was pulled in July because of a lack of support, it was reintroduced in August during a special legislative session dealing with health-care issues.
Under the proposed law, two doctors would have to determine that a patient had no more than six months to live before any life-ending drugs would be prescribed, according to Reuters. It also would require any patient interested in seeking such drugs to be mentally competent, present two separate requests to an attending physician and furnish two witnesses attesting to his or her desire to die. Doctors would be required to meet in private with the person desiring to die. The proposed law would expire after 10 years, requiring its reapproval.
If Brown signs the bill into law, California would join Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington on a growing list of states that have laws allowing physician-assisted suicides.
“If it becomes the law in California, that’s going to be very, very significant nationally,” said George Eighmey, vice president of Death With Dignity and a former state legislator in Oregon, according to the New York Times.
The bill gained supporters after Brittany Maynard, 29, moved to Oregon from California to take advantage of Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act. This year, the California Medical Association switched its stance on the issue from being opposed to neutral this year, while a Gallup poll found 70 percent of Americans supported physician-assisted suicide legislation.
Meanwhile, the California bill is opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, disability-rights advocates and doctors who feel they should preserve life rather than end it.