Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that will allow terminally ill Californians to obtain medication to aid in dying, making California the fifth state to permit patients to terminate their lives. No longer will California “… make it a crime for a dying person to end his life, no matter how great his pain or suffering” after Brown signed ABX2-15.
Brown spent significant time studying the idea. He spoke with many people, both those who supported and opposed the bill, a Catholic bishop and doctors and other religious leaders. Ultimately, legal, religious and philosophical issues were subordinate to his own personal feelings and beliefs about the issue of assisted death.
“I have considered the theological and religious perspectives that any deliberate shortening of one’s life as sinful … In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” he wrote in the letter confirming his signature of the bill.
“I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that It would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill,” he concluded. “And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”
Prior to announcing his decision to sign the bill on Monday, Oct. 5, Brown had neither discussed his position nor signaled where he leaned on the issue.
The bill’s author, Assemblymember Susan T. Eggman, D-Stockton, said in a press release when the Assembly passed the bill, “It allows for mentally capable, terminally ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for aid-in-dying drugs to painlessly and peacefully hasten their death.”
Certain conditions, such as two oral requests a minimum of 15 days apart and a written request signed by two witnesses, are necessary before the patient may have the drugs. His or her attending physician must refer the patient to a consulting physician to confirm diagnosis and capacity to make medical decisions. The individual must have the physical and mental ability to self-administer the aid-in-dying drug.
The bill passed in the Assembly on Sept. 9 by a 44 to 35 vote with one abstention. On Friday, Sept. 11, the Senate voted to pass 23-15 with two abstentions.
In his letter, Brown acknowledged that this legislation “is not an ordinary bill because it deals with life and death.”
The California Prolife Council has already announced it plans to litigate the legislation. “Despite the efforts of our diverse coalition, the Governor has declared intentional killing as an alternative form of health care in California. … The only option now is for court action. The bill cannot go into effect for 90 days,” it stated in a press release after Brown’s announcement.