Lawmakers in California are proposing a bill that would allow terminally ill patients be able to determine how and when they die. The bill, called the End of Life Option Act, will be revealed on Jan. 21 with support from two Democratic state senators and the family of Brittany Maynard.
California’s current law blocked Maynard from ending her life after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2014. Once denied, she decided to go public with her decision to move to Oregon where she could legally end her life under their Death with Dignity law. Maynard’s story made news around the country, captivating the nation.
"We were galvanized by Brittany Maynard," California Sen. Lois Wolk said. "How courageous she was to share such an intimate, difficult life situation with the public. And then she had to leave everything familiar — her home, for heaven's sake — and establish residency where no one was. The whole thing was appalling."
Along with Oregon, Vermont and Washington have passed physician-assisted death laws. New Mexico and Montana also allow the practice.
The California bill will be modeled after Oregon’s measure, but with two differences. California’s law will require a translator for non-English speakers and pharmacists will join physicians in being able to carry out the practice with legal immunity. Oregon’s law was enacted in 1997. Since then, it has not produced any legal disputes, and has barely been used.
As with almost all proposed legislation, opposition exists. One coalition, Californians Against Assisted Suicide, has already expressed concerns.
"We will advocate quite aggressively against this legislation ... Once suicide becomes an option, it is just another form of treatment and the cheapest option," said a spokesman for the group.
While doctors have been split on the issue, recent trends show a majority have been favoring the right to end your own life. San Jose Mercury News found a survey last month that shows doctor support on this issue has shifted from 46 percent in 2010 to 54 percent in 2014.
The law would allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to mentally competent, terminally ill patients that have a prognosis of six months or less to live.