California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill Monday that allows doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medications to patients with terminal conditions, in an effort to end their lives.
The LA Times reports that the decision was difficult for the governor. The bill was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church. Governor Brown once studied to be a priest.
California joins Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont as the fifth state to allow what is known, commonly, as assisted suicide.
The law mimics that of the one in Oregon. Physicians are legally allowed to prescribe lethal medications to adults that have demonstrated mental competence, and are diagnosed with terminal illnesses. The patients acknowledge that they are expected to die within six months.
The law will be in affect no sooner than 90 days after legislators adjourn after a special healthcare session. This session may not take place until January of next year. The signing of the bill ends a long debate over what became known as The End of Life Option Act, which divided groups throughout the state.
The governor affirmed that the choice is entirely about whether or not it should be illegal for an individual to participate in assisted suicide. Brown worked closely with two of his doctors, a Catholic bishop, and the family of Brittany Maynard, a cancer victim, who relocated from California to Oregon for her assisted suicide.
The debate on assisted suicide legislation has occurred for over two decades. Voters opposed a similar proposal back in 2002, which focused on lethal injection. Bills that simply gave the option for patients to obtain the deadly doses of drugs were rejected three years in a row. The current bill gained support after Brittney Maynard’s story circulated.
The signing of the bill was decried by Californians Against Assisted Suicide, who fear for abuse of the new law and the effect it may have on low income families.