California governor signs right-to-die legislation

California Gov. Jerry Brown meets with board members of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in Los Angeles. California will become the fifth state in the nation to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives using doctor-prescribed drugs. Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, announced, Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, he has signed a bill approved by state lawmakers after an emotional and deeply personal debate, Los Angeles, Calif., June 9, 2015 | AP File Photo by Damian Dovarganes.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California will become the fifth state to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives using doctor-prescribed drugs after Gov. Jerry Brown announced Monday he signed one of the most emotionally charged bills of the year.

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.

“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” the governor wrote in a signing statement that accompanied his signature on the legislation. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill.

He added he wouldn’t deny that right to others.

Until now, Brown had declined to comment on the issue.

State lawmakers approved the bill Sept. 11. A previous version failed this year despite the highly publicized case of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, a California woman with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to end her life.

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.

The measure was brought back as part of a special session intended to address funding shortfalls for Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for the poor. The governor had criticized the move to bypass the usual process.

The bill he received includes requirements that patients be physically capable of taking the medication themselves, that two doctors approve it, that the patients submit several written requests, and that there be two witnesses, one of whom is not a family member.

California’s measure came after at least two dozen states introduced aid-in-dying legislation this year, though the measures stalled elsewhere. Doctors in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana already can prescribe life-ending drugs.

Maynard’s family attended the legislative debate in California throughout the year. Maynard’s mother, Debbie Ziegler, testified in committee hearings and carried a large picture of her daughter as she listened to lawmakers’ debate.

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.

The Catholic Church targeted Catholic lawmakers before the bill’s passage and urged the governor to veto it.

“Pope Francis invites all of us to create our good society by seeing through the eyes of those who are on the margins, those in need economically, physically, psychologically and socially,” the California Catholic Conference said in a statement after its passage. “We ask the governor to veto this bill.”

Story by JUDY LIN, Associated Press

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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11 Comments

  • Rainbow Dash October 5, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    This is a good thing. People in those situations should have the right to choose how they go. I’ve never had a terminal illness myself but I have worked with people who did in the past as well as had various terminal cancers affect my family and friends. I know that many people on this thread will disagree with me for whatever reason. Some might even try to argue that it goes against the will of God of whatever. Here’s my response to that, So what? You don’t have a right to impose your beliefs on others. These people are well informed of what the consequences could be and have accepted them. Terminal illness and Cancer are not forgiving, painless beasts of no burden. They ravage you, take away EVERYTHING! you once maybe took for granted. Your mind, your gait, your speech, your continence, your ability to move and then AFTER YEARS of slowly destroying your body, your body will give up because it can no longer function. During this time you will lose the ability to take care of yourself so you will be at the mercy of your family who may or may not be able or even want to take care of you. If they do, you face the embarrassment and burdening feeling of having a family member clean you up. If they can’t or won’t, you get the caring ability of some 18 year old CNA making $8 a hour who cares more about his or her appearance or what car they drive then they do about whether you’re clean or not, fed or not or even uninjured or not. I worked with more then one CNA who physicallyabused patients who, thanks to a terminal illnes, couldn’t fight back or even tell them to stop. It pisses me off that this is America in 2015 and we STILL don’t let people who have TERMINAL ILLNESSES decide for themselves that they would like to die comfortably,cleanly and with a little bit of dignity simply because some stupid book written thousands of years ago says it’s a sin. “Oh it’s against my religion” WELL WHOOP DE DO FOR YOU! THANKS FOR YOUR OPINION! YOU ARENT THEM AND YOU DONT HAVE A RIGHT TO DECIDE HOW THEY LIVE THEIR LIVES OR HOW THEY END IT! Thanks for letting me rant.

    • 42214 October 5, 2015 at 8:55 pm

      Why is this a state by state issue. The US Constitution should give you this right to determine your own life.

  • 42214 October 5, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    I can only hope that lot’s of Californians take advantage of the new law.

  • Brad October 5, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    Rainbow Dash,
    Governor Brown has finally done something that I agree with. I agree with you. Each individual should have this right if their met with a catastrophic illness. I would surely hope that our Governor in Utah would sign a bill that would help and make it easier for a sick person to work with his or her Dr., to leave this earth without the pain and suffering of a terminal illness.

  • .... October 5, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    Maybe some of the Utah politicians can go to CA and practice that law. and do Utah a favor.

    • mesaman October 5, 2015 at 9:32 pm

      I’ll help pay your bus fare……

      • .... October 5, 2015 at 10:27 pm

        Good then I can buy you a ticket to CA.

      • 42214 October 6, 2015 at 9:07 am

        Mesaman for Prophet

      • 42214 October 6, 2015 at 9:04 pm

        Who travels on a bus besides senile old Mormons?

  • sagemoon October 6, 2015 at 8:37 am

    “I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill.” He added he wouldn’t deny that right to others.

    Smart man! This is the way we should all be thinking. If it’s against your values or your religion, DON’T DO IT. Otherwise, we should all be free to make decisions about our own life and even death.

    • Rainbow Dash October 6, 2015 at 6:06 pm

      So true, Sagemoon. So true.

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