Legislation that would merit physician-assisted suicide advanced in the California legislature on May 28, in the wake of the high profile case of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard.
Despite opposition from powerful groups associated with religious and medical organizations, the California state Senate appropriations committee approved the bill shortly after the influential California Medical Association (CMA) dropped its opposition to the proposal.
The End of Life Adoption Act, also known as SB-128, would warrant adults who suffer from incurable diseases that their physicians say will kill them in six months to ask for medical practices, such as medication, that would end their lives, Reuters reported.
“We are one step closer to ensuring Californians have access to all options when they are facing the end of life,” Democratic State Sen. Lois Wolk, who co-authored the legislation, said.
With the proposal passing the appropriations committee, it advances to the California Senate, where a deadline of June 5 has been set for a vote on the legislation.
However, legislators were forced to make changes to their initial draft after strong opposition from some of California’s most influential health groups, such as the CMA. The CMA removed their opposition on May 20 after their requests to change the legislation were met by lawmakers.
Under the proposed legislation, hospitals and medical providers could refuse a patient's request for physician-assisted suicide. It also makes it illegal for doctors to coerce or manipulate patients into ending their lives.
The idea of the bill was generated by the case of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old Oregon resident who opted for assisted suicide after she was diagnosed as terminally ill. Maynard moved from her home state of California, which does not allow physician-assisted suicide, to Oregon, where it is allowed.
On May 20, CMA spokeswoman Molly Weedn said a “shift in the conversation” by California residents and doctors allowed the Association to become more open to the idea of the practice becoming law.
However, the California Department of Rehabilitation (CDR) felt differently.
“Our coalition continues to oppose this deeply flawed legislation because of the dangers it poses to those living with disabilities or in vulnerable circumstances, particularly in a state as ethnically and economically diverse as California,” Catherine Campisi, the CDR’s spokeswoman, said in defense of the organization’s stable stance on the issue.
“Assisted suicide is inherently dangerous to those who are expensive to care for or who lack access to proper medical care," she added, "and rather than open up that Pandora’s box, we ought to be exploring how to expand hospice and palliative care to address the needs of those terminally ill."
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