California Assembly Passes Right-To-Die Bill Inspired By Brittany Maynard

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – A hard-fought measure to legalize physician-assisted suicide in California cleared the state Assembly on Wednesday despite opposition from religious groups and advocates for the disabled, and moved to the state Senate, where it was widely expected to gain final passage.

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.

“Imagine that it’s one of your constituents, suffering in agonizing pain – their pain medication no longer works,” said Assembly member Luis Alejo, a Democrat from Watsonville who supported the bill. “Then imagine that it’s your father or your mother or your grandparents or your daughter.”

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, —> Read More