California state lawmakers on Sept. 11 approved a bill that will allow terminally ill patients to end their lives in a legal and humane way.
State senators approved the bill 23 to 14 following an emotionally charged debate in the state’s chambers.
“Eliminate the needless pain and the long suffering of those who are dying,” Democratic State Sen. Lois Wolk, also one of the legislation’s co-sponsors, said during the debate.
More specifically, the bill will allow physicians to prescribe life-ending medication to California residents who have been previously diagnosed with a terminally ill disease and having less than six months to live, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Opponents were unsure on how the bill would prevent relatives, friends or spouses from convincing a terminally ill individual to take the life-ending drugs.
“Let’s call this what it is. It’s not death with dignity. It’s assisted killing,” said Republican State Sen. Robert Huff, who opposed the legislation.
Tim Rosales, a spokesman for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, expressed concern about adding another problem into the state and nation’s complicated health care system.
“End-of-life treatment options are already limited for millions of people — constrained by poverty, disability discrimination, and other obstacles,” he said. “Adding this so-called 'choice' into our dysfunctional health care system will push people into cheaper lethal options.”
The bill is in response to the death of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, a lifelong California resident who traveled to Oregon, where end-of-life medication is legal, to obtain the drugs. Maynard had been diagnosed will terminal brain cancer and moved states to legally take her own life.
The legislation’s future still remains in doubt. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to indicate his support and some say Brown’s faith — he is a devout Catholic — will influence his final vote.
“He’s essentially a former seminarian, but when you ask if he’s Catholic now, he goes into the parsing of the word and what that means,” Jack Citrin, the director of the Institute of Government Studies at UC Berkeley told Time of the governor’s decision. “You’d need some kind of seance to figure out what he’s going to do. He plays his cards very close to his vest.”
The governor has until Oct. 11 to sign the bill into law.