California state lawmakers revived the controversial right-to-die bill on Aug. 18, reigniting an emotional and conflicting debate over whether doctors should be allowed to help terminally ill patients end their own lives.
The Golden State’s bill is mirrored after the law of its northern neighbor, Oregon. Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act allows doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill patient that is mentally aware and competent of the ramifications of their decision.
Originally California lawmakers working in the state’s Assembly Health Committee voted a similar law down last year, largely due to negative feedback from the Catholic Church. California Assembly Democrats, a largely Latino group, were lobbied by the Church to oppose the law based on their religious beliefs.
Now state legislators have bypassed the Committee and added the proposal into a special legislative session focused on health care funding for the poor, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
“People are counting on us to win the freedom to end their life the way they choose,” Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman said in a news conference on Aug. 18. She co-authored the legislation, titled The End of Life Option Act, and introduced it formally to the public on Tuesday.
“We will use whatever means are available to us. We wanted this to go forward,” she added.
However, a major roadblock could soon occur as Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has indicated that he may not support the legislation after Democrats in the state legislature used a bill funding health care for the poor to push their right-to-die bill ahead. Deborah Hoffman, a spokesperson for the governor, simply stated that the issue “merits careful consideration.”
Opponents of the right-to-die bill sided with Brown, saying that it was unfair for Democratic legislators to push the bill through without going through the proper committee.
“This is a heavy-handed attempt to force through a bill that could not get any traction at all in committee,” Marilyn Golden, the co-chair of the Californians Against Assisted Suicide Coalition, said. “It’s one thing to run roughshod over the normal committee and legislative process to jam through a district bill, but to do that on what is literally a life-and-death issue is clearly abusive, and should concern all Californians.”
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