Compassion and respect

California success – well, nearly!

The Californian Parliament has passed their End of Life Option Act.  Following the strong vote of 43 to 34 in the Assembly which we reported on on 10 September, the Senate also voted 23 to 14 in favour on 11 September. This is a very major advance for the voluntary assisted dying cause.

There is one hurdle left – the Californian Governor, Jerry Brown, has the power to veto legislation and he has until 11 October to decide whether he will veto this law.

The law will provide virtually the same legal assisted dying option as that available in other US States, Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana.  That is, doctors will be able to provide prescriptions for lethal drugs to competent adults, who have a terminal illness with less than 6 months to live, who make a voluntary request and meet all the details of the requirements, eg witnessed written request.  One difference from other US assisted dying laws is that this Act has a ‘sunset clause’, that is, it will expire in 10 years, at which time lawmakers could review how it worked and decide whether to extend it.

Attempts to get this law go back as far as 1992 when California voters rejected a referendum proposal similar to Oregon’s which passed in 1994 and led to their Dying with Dignity Act.   Similar Bills failed in the Californian Parliament in 2005 and 2007.   A big factor in the success of this latest attempt was the impact of the Brittany Maynard story. Brittany was a 29 year-old Californian with an incurable brain tumour, who was forced to move to Oregon to access the assisted dying option she wanted.  She died in November 2014 and her husband and family has advocated strongly for Californian assisted dying legislation.  Read about her husband’s response to the success of the Bill HERE

There have been excellent media articles urging the Governor to sign the Act into law:

  • an excellent article by Los Angeles Times columnist Jerry Lopez. His quotes from Dan Maguire, a Jesuit priest who now teaches moral theology at Marquette University, a Jesuit school are particularly interesting including: “For almost 50 years a number of Catholic theologians have taught that for the terminally ill, ending life may, at times, be the best that life offers. In some circumstances, death may be the best remaining friend and it is reasonable and moral to accelerate the dying process.”
  • The New York Times editorial
  • A Chicago Tribune opinion piece by Steve Chapman. Before the Oregon right-to-die law took effect in 1997, he opposed it. Here he recounts how he came to change his mind, and why he supports the current California bill.  May there be many more who get the facts and respond with compassion and respect for others!

Opponents are also out in force lobbying for the Governor to veto the law, repeating their tired old arguments that were rejected by the majority of elected politicians.

The success in California is significant because it is by far the most populous State with a population of approximately 38 million, compared to Texas with about 27 million and New York and Florida each with about 18 million.  It also compares with Oregon with 4 million, the Netherlands with about 17 million and Belgium with 11 million.  It therefore provides choice of assisted dying, albeit in restricted circumstances, to many, many more people.  The expectation is that more States will now follow its lead.



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