California Lawmakers To Introduce New Right-To-Die Legislation
On Wednesday, several Democratic state lawmakers plan to introduce a new right-to-die bill that would allow California doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to patients with terminal illnesses, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.
The renewed push for right-to-die legislation in California comes after state resident Brittany Maynard moved to Oregon to legally end her life (Nirappil, AP/Sacramento Bee, 1/20). Maynard, who had an inoperable brain tumor, died in Oregon on Nov. 1, 2014, using a lethal dose of barbiturates prescribed by her doctor.
Previous attempts in California to pass death-with-dignity laws have failed after running into stiff opposition from physicians and religious organizations (Norberg, California Healthline, 11/25/14).
Details of Bill
The End of Life Options Act, by state Sens. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) and William Monning (D-Carmel), would give patients with terminal illnesses the right to seek life-ending medication from their doctor.
Specifically, the bill would require that:
- The medication is self-administered;
- The patient is mentally competent;
- Two physicians confirm the prognosis that the patient has six months or less to live;
- The patient's physician discusses alternatives and additional treatment options;
- The patient submits a written request and two oral requests made at least 15 days apart; and
- Two witnesses attest to the request.
In addition, the bill would require an interpreter for non-English speakers. Pharmacists and doctors would be given legal immunity for participating and would be able to opt out.
Under the bill, it would be illegal to forge a request or coerce an individual into requesting the medication, according to the San Jose Mercury News (Krieger, San Jose Mercury News, 1/20).
Next Steps, Comments
According to the AP/Bee, the bill will be introduced by Democratic lawmakers with the support of Maynard's family.
Monning said, "Why should someone who willingly wants to avail themselves of this option have to go to another state? It just adds to the suffering and challenge at an already difficult time."
Further, Barbara Coombs-Lee, president of Compassion & Choices, said, "Legislators now understand this is a social justice issue that has huge popular support, and they want to be part of it." She noted that the organization is considering bringing the issue to voters as a ballot measure (AP/Sacramento Bee, 1/20).
According to the Mercury News, the bill will receive some opposition.
Tim Rosales, a spokesperson for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, said, "We will advocate quite aggressively against this legislation."
Rosales added, "Once suicide becomes an option, it is just another form of treatment and the cheapest option" (San Jose Mercury News, 1/20).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.