Tags: California Assisted Suicide Approved | Will Jerry Brown Sign It

California Assisted Suicide OK'd, but Will Jerry Brown Sign Bill?

California Assisted Suicide OK'd, but Will Jerry Brown Sign Bill?
Gov Jerry Brown speaks at the Vatican in July during a "Modern Slavery and Climate Change" conference. (Tony Gentile/Reuters

By    |   Thursday, 10 September 2015 07:26 AM

Despite opposition from religious groups, a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide in California cleared the state assembly on Wednesday. Quick and easy passage is expected in the senate, so now an uncertain fate awaits when the measure is placed on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, a former seminarian.

The measure, patterned after an Oregon law allowing terminally ill patients to obtain medication prescribed to end their lives, passed 43-34 after weeks of hearings and impassioned debate, reported Reuters.

Three assembly Republicans joined 40 Democrats in voting for the bill in the special session on Wednesday, after lawmakers added "sunset" language under which the statute would expire in 10 years unless the legislature voted to extend it.

Brown, a Democrat who was a Jesuit seminary student before entering politics, has not taken a position on the legislation. If it passes and he does not veto it, the bill would go into effect next year.

“This is a governor who will struggle with this issue, given his background,” said Sen. Lois Wolk, according to the Los Angeles Times which reported that the governor’s office criticized the introduction of the bill, saying that the issue merits careful consideration but should not be part of the special session.

The legislature is required to pass regular-session bills by midnight on Friday, although lawmakers may opt to stay longer to handle special-session measures.

Under the bill, which was pulled for lack of support in July but reintroduced last month as part of a special legislative session to deal with healthcare issues, two doctors would have to determine that a patient had no more than six months to live before the medication could be prescribed.

It also would require a patient seeking life-ending drugs to be mentally competent and to present two separate requests to an attending physician and for two witnesses to attest to the patient's wish to die.

The bill makes it a felony to coerce, trick or force someone into taking the medication.

Physician-assisted suicide also is legal in Washington state, Montana and Vermont.

The issue gained new impetus in the most populous U.S. state last year after a 29-year-old brain cancer patient, Brittany Maynard, moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of that state's Death with Dignity Act and was featured on the cover of People magazine.

A measure introduced after Maynard's death won the support of the state Senate in June, but died in the assembly's Health Committee, amid opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, disability rights advocates and others.

Polls show consistent support for such a measure in California, and in May the California Medical Association changed its longstanding opposition to a neutral stance.

Physician-assisted suicide is still opposed by many doctors who feel they should preserve life rather than help end it. Some skeptics have raised concerns that disabled patients, especially the poor, will be pushed to end their lives by insurance companies or relatives who did not want to care for them.

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Despite opposition from religious groups, a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide in California cleared the assembly on Wednesday. Quick and easy passage is expected in the senate, so now an uncertain fate awaits the measure from Gov. Jerry Brown, a former seminarian.
California Assisted Suicide Approved, Will Jerry Brown Sign It
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2015-26-10
Thursday, 10 September 2015 07:26 AM
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