Calif. Is One Step Closer to Legal Physician-Assisted Death
Brown has 12 days from the bill's passage to sign or veto the measure, or to let it become law without his signature. He has not yet indicated whether he will sign the measure (Seipel/Rogers, Oakland Tribune, 9/12).
Assembly member Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) introduced the legislation after a similar measure (SB 128) stalled in July amid a lack of support in the Assembly Committee on Health.
Like the stalled bill, ABX2-15 would allow some dying patients to end their lives through lethal doses of medication, as long as:
- Medication is self-administered;
- The patient is mentally competent; and
- Two physicians confirm the prognosis that the patient has six months or less to live.
Several amendments were added to the bill in the special session, including one that would require patients to reaffirm their consent within 48 hours prior to taking the lethal dose of medication.
The bill's authors also added an amendment that would sunset the law after a decade, making it effective only until Jan. 1, 2026, if passed. However, the state Legislature could vote to extend it.
Details of Votes, Comments
Last Wednesday, the Assembly advanced the measure on a 43-34 vote and sent it to the full state Senate (California Healthline, 9/10).
On Friday, the state Senate passed the measure on a 23-14 vote.
If the bill becomes law, California would become the sixth state -- after Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington -- to legalize physician-assisted death (Kliff, Vox, 9/11).
Ahead of the Senate vote, state Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), a co-author of the bill, said its passage was a "historic effort" (McGreevy, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 9/11). She added, "By an overwhelming majority across all groups -- religious, ethnic, geographic, no matter what age or gender -- Californians want us to act to eliminate the needless pain and prolonged suffering of those who are dying" (Seipel, San Jose Mercury News, 9/11).
Toni Broaddus, the California campaign director for assisted-death advocacy group Compassion & Choices, said, "Our hope, our fervent hope, is that Gov. Brown will sign this bill and bring relief to hundreds of dying Californians."
State Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) argued that "the joint and co-authors on this bill ... have endeavored to build in protections in this [measure] that are stronger than the protections in any of the states where this has been practiced."
However, opponents said the bill did not include enough information on how it would prevent individuals with fatal illnesses from being coerced into ending their lives.
State Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) said, "The promises and assurances of the safeguards and protections from the representatives of those in favor are based in innocent ignorance" (Dembosky, "State of Health," KQED, 9/11).
Californians Against Assisted Suicide spokesperson Tim Rosales added, "End-of-life treatment options are already limited for millions of people -- constrained by poverty, disability discrimination and other obstacles. ... Adding this so-called 'choice' into our dysfunctional health care system will push people into cheaper lethal options" ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 9/11).
Meanwhile, state Sen. Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado) said, "I'm not going to push the old or weak out of this world. I think that could be the unintended consequence of this legislation" (Nichols, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 9/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.