(CNA) – In a striking victory for those who support assisted suicide, the California State Legislature has given final approval to a bill that would allow doctors to help terminally ill people end their lives.
In the second attempt this year to establish a “right-to-die” law in California, state assembly lawmakers passed the assisted-suicide bill last Wednesday by a vote of 42-33. The bill went to a vote in the state Senate on Friday, which also passed it by a vote of 23-14. It now goes to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, whose intentions so far are unknown.
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The bill, AB X2-15, will allow physicians to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients who have requested it.
Some of those opposing the bill, also dubbed the End of Life Option Act, called a recent legislative hearing “a well-orchestrated stage play designed to minimize the voices of those opposed to the bill.”
“Although many ‘concerns’ were raised by committee members, the softball questions were directed at proponents of the bill instead of the expert witnesses in opposition,” the California Catholic Conference said Sept. 4.
“Although many ‘concerns’ were raised by committee members, the softball questions were directed at proponents of the bill instead of the expert witnesses in opposition,” the California Catholic Conference said Sept. 4. “Even when supporting arguments were misleading and inaccurate, there was no opportunity to refute the misinformation.”
California had abandoned efforts to pass a right-to-die bill this July, after the Assembly Health Committee fell short of votes.
Only two months later, the movement resurfaced with more momentum, and the bill revisited the state assembly this past week, under the pretext of a special legislative session on health care financing convened by Gov. Jerry Brown.
However, opponents found this move suspicious, saying the bill really has nothing to do with health care financing at all.
“Even when supporting arguments were misleading and inaccurate, there was no opportunity to refute the misinformation.”
“The hearing was part of a special session designed to address health care financing, but the only financing question in the debate dealt with how inexpensive the suicide drugs would be compared to other costs,” the California Catholic Conference noted.
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The new version of the bill includes additional safeguards. Patients must be able to take the medication themselves, two doctors must approve, the patient must submit two oral requests at least 15 days apart, plus a written request, and there must be two witnesses. It also expires in 10 years, at which time it could be reviewed and extended.
The push toward the legalization of physician-assisted suicide has been accelerating since the highly publicized case of Brittany Maynard, a Californian, late last year. Maynard’s mother and husband have been working to legalize the right-to-die in California ever since Maynard’s death in Oregon.
Other supporters of AB X2-15 include Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Pleasanton, who is advocating for the ability to choose death in a terminal circumstance, calling denial “nothing short of cruel.”
Although Gov. Brown remains hesitant toward the passing of the bill, saying other health care topics should take priority, he has not been vocal about his stance on the issue.
Marilyn Golden, who fights for the rights of persons with disabilities, believes better palliative care should be the topic of discussion, rather than seeking the means to obtain death.
Opposers of the bill, such as Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, challenged the passage of ABX2-15 with the argument that many terminally ill diagnoses turn around into miraculous recoveries. A six-month terminal diagnosis, which is what the bill requires to qualify for the right-to-die, is not long enough to determine an individual’s improvement, Gipson argued.
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Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-Rialto, opposed the bill on the same grounds. Her son was near death with an infection, but when doctors suggested she let him go, she refused. He remained on life support and eventually came off it, and is now married and a father. Brown commented, “Doctors don’t know everything.”
Other groups of opposition include Marilyn Golden, who fights for the rights of persons with disabilities. Golden believes better palliative care should be the topic of discussion, rather than seeking the means to obtain death.
Physician-assisted suicide is already legal in the states of Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana.
This article originally appeared in Catholic News Agency and has been updated.