SACRAMENTO (KRON) — Governor Edmund G. Brown has signed the ABx2-15, also known as the controversial right-to-die bill, his office announced Monday afternoon.
“I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain,” Brown wrote in a letter to the California State Assembly. “I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”
Brown, a lifelong Catholic and former Jesuit seminarian, announced he signed the legislation after thoroughly considering all opinions and discussing the issue with many people, including a Catholic bishop and two of Brown’s doctors.
California now becomes the fifth state to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives using doctor-prescribed drugs following Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont.
Terminally ill adult patients seeking a lethal prescription will first need to be examined by a physician and meet all the requirements listed on the “End of Life Option Act Checklist.” The patient will have to meet with a second doctor within 15 days of the initial request for a second confirmation. Both doctors are required to confirm that the patient suffers from an incurable and irreversible disease and will, within reasonable medical judgment, result in death within six months.
“If a mental health specialist assessment referral is made, no aid-in-dying drugs shall be prescribed until the mental health specialist determines that the individual has the capacity to make medical decisions and is not suffering from impaired judgment due to a mental disorder,” according to the End of Life Option Act.
Other requirements include: the individual has voluntarily expressed the wish to receive a prescription for an aid-in-dying drug, the individual is a resident of California and is able to establish residency and that the individual has the physical and mental ability to self-administer the aid-in-dying drug.
The new law, modeled after Oregon’s right to die law, was largely supported in the state, according to poll of 1,097 Californians that was released last month by the at the University of California, Berkeley.
“A large majority of respondents (76 percent) supported that idea, including 82 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of independents and 67 percent of Republicans,” said a report by UC Berkeley.
The bill’s signing into law comes one year after Brittany Maynard and her family launched a partnership with Compassion & Choices on Oct. 6, 2014, to authorize this end-of-life option in California and other states nationwide. Maynard was a 29-year-old Californian who brought international attention to the issue when she had to move to Oregon to utilize its death-with-dignity law, which she utilized to end her suffering from terminal brain cancer on Nov. 1, 2014.
In a video recorded days before Maynard took life-ending drugs, she told California lawmakers that no one should have to leave home to legally kill themselves under the care of a doctor.
“No one should have to leave their home and community for peace of mind, to escape suffering, and to plan for a gentle death,” Maynard said in the video released by right-to-die advocates after her death.
“This is the biggest victory for the death-with-dignity movement since Oregon passed the nation’s first law two decades ago,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, a lawyer, former ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant, who coauthored the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.
Opponents said the bill legalizes premature suicide, but supporters called that comparison inappropriate because it applies to mentally sound, terminally ill people and not those who are depressed or impaired.
Religious groups and advocates for people with disabilities opposed the bill and nearly identical legislation that had stalled in the Legislature weeks earlier, saying it goes against the will of God and put terminally ill patients at risk for coerced death.
Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) issued a statement on the decision.
My gratitude to Governor Brown for signing the End of Life Option Act into law today. He was absolutely correct to do so, and I’m grateful.
This bill, which includes significant safeguards, will give terminally-ill patients the option to end intense pain and suffering. It will ensure they can pass away in their homes, with their families and loved ones by their sides.
I’ve seen firsthand the agony that accompanies prolonged illness, for both patients and loved ones, and this bill provides a compassionate, kind option.
The new law goes into effect 91 days following the current Special Legislative Session on healthcare, possibly next January.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.