Health

California Assembly Passes Physician-Assisted Suicide Bill

| by Michael Allen

The California Assembly passed a bill on Wednesday by a vote of 43-34 that would allow terminally-ill, competent adults to end their lives with the assistance of a doctor.

The End of Life Option Act has faced opposition by Catholic Church and other religious groups, and still has to get final approval by the California's state Senate where it previously passed by a slim vote, notes the Los Angeles Times.

The bill would require terminally-ill people to make a written request (in the presence of two witnesses), and two oral requests, at least 15 days apart, for a prescription medication to end their life. One doctor would have to receive all three requests.

The two witnesses must say that the person is of sound mind and not being coerced under duress.

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Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown of California has not yet stated his position on the bill.

Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Eggman who sponsored the bill, and used to be a hospice worker, said:

This issue is of immense importance to all Californians.

I was confident that the full Assembly, reflective of and responsive to the people it represents, would do the right thing and move us closer to making it possible for terminally ill Californians to decide for themselves how to manage their last days.

However, Democratic Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown claimed that doctors may diagnose patients to be terminal ill too quickly, and cited an incident with her son who had a near-death infection, but survived.

“Doctors don't know everything,” Brown insisted.

Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old California mom with terminal brain cancer, had to move to Oregon last year in order to get life-ending drugs from a doctor in order to fulfill her wish not to suffer.

Maynard recorded a video before her death urging California lawmakers to support a right-to-die law similar to Oregon's Death with Dignity Act, which was passed in 1997. Maynard's husband and mother were present at today's vote in Sacramento, California.

Disability advocates have opposed the bill on the claim that disabled people might end their lives too early, but a 2007 study stated: "Rates of assisted dying in Oregon and in the Netherlands showed no evidence of heightened risk for the elderly, women, the uninsured (inapplicable in the Netherlands, where all are insured), people with low educational status, the poor, the physically disabled or chronically ill, minors, people with psychiatric illnesses including depression, or racial or ethnic minorities, compared with background populations."

According to a 2015 report by the Oregon Public Health Division, people who got lethal prescription medication from 1998-2014, per the Death with Dignity Act, have outnumbered people who actually died by taking those prescriptions.

Sources: Journal of Medical Ethics, Los Angeles Times, Oregon Public Health Division / Photo Credit: Famartin/Wikimedia