Terminally Ill May End Their Lives in California

Last Thursday, during an emotional vote, a law was passed through the California Senate allowing for terminally ill persons to gain life-ending medication from their doctors.

The new California law is modeled after a similar law in Oregon which was passed in 1997. The new law, Senate Bill 128, gives doctors permission to prescribe life-ending drugs to patients who have been diagnosed with illnesses that give them a prognosis of less than six months to live. Republicans posed strong objections, but the law passed with a vote of 23 to 14.

Debate over the bill lasted for over 90 minutes. Democrats were the loudest voice in favor of the law, asking that it be passed in order to give people a compassionate option. The law, according to those who voted for it, will allow people to die in the peace that they deserve.

Said Senator Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who authored the bill, “I was 17 when my vibrant young mother ended a three-year struggle with metastatic cancer, and it was frankly brutal. Her suffering was prolonged and unbearable, for her, certainly, and also for her family. It does not have to be this way.”

Vermont and Washington have similar laws, though California lagged behind in the passage of such a bill. Lawmakers have butted heads with disability rights groups and the Catholic Church. The last attempt to pass such a bill stalled before it ever reached the floor.

The passage of the bill this go round can be credited, many think, to Brittany Maynard, the highly-publicized woman who moved to Oregon to take advantage of the law. Her mother was present for the vote Thursday.

Of the nine Republicans who voices their opposition to the bill, several pointed to religious reasons for their opinions. Another Senator, Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, said that the bill violates the Declaration of Independence. Two other senators asked that the legislature not give people a reason to give up when they are ill.

Provisions were added to the bill that will allow physicians with moral objections to opt out of the law. Because of these provisions, the law has the backing of the California Medical Association.

In order to take advantage of the law, a person must be assessed by two separate physicians, provide a verbal and two written requests for lethal drugs, and wait for a period of 15 days before the drugs are prescribed.

The last step for SB 128 is the governor’s office. It is unknown how Governor Jerry Brown will react to the bill on his desk, but it is known that he spoke to Maynard on the phone before she ended her life.

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