Assisted-death bill approved by California Senate
SACRAMENTO — The state Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would allow physicians in California to prescribe lethal doses of drugs for terminally ill patients who want to hasten their deaths.
Democratic state Sens. Lois Wolk of Davis and Bill Monning of Carmel modeled their End of Life Option Act after the voter-approved law that took effect in 1997 in Oregon, Los Angeles Times reported.
The measure would allow mentally competent adults with six months or less to live the option to request prescription medication that they can take to end their life.
“SB 128 is about how we die in California,” Wolk (D-Davis) told her colleagues, adding allowing the terminally ill to get fatal doses of drugs “will allow them to voluntarily die in peace.”
The measure was approved on a party line vote of 23-14.
Republican Sen. John Moorlach of Irvine said the practice is not moral.
“I call it assisted suicide. For me it’s unconscionable and I can’t be a party to it,” Moorlach said during the emotional floor debate.
The legislation includes safeguards against abuse. It would require two separate physicians to confirm the patient’s prognosis of six months or less to live and that the patient has the mental competency to make healthcare decisions.
The patient would have to make two oral requests by the patient to a physician, a minimum of 15 days apart, with two witnesses attesting to the request. The medication must be self-administered. In addition, the bill creates felony penalties for coercing or forging a request.
SB 128 received a boost last week when the California Medical Assn. dropped its opposition, saying it would allow physicians to decide whether to participate in the assisting of deaths by prescribing drugs.
The measure continues to be opposed by many physicians, who say their role is to heal patients, and by religious leaders and activists for the disabled who fear that group may be put under duress to end their lives prematurely.
Groups in opposition include the California Catholic Conference, the Medical Oncology Assn. of Southern California and the California Disability Alliance.
Still, the proposal has gained momentum since Californian Brittany Maynard, 29, received national attention last year by moving to Oregon and ending her life there after months of debilitating and painful effects from brain cancer. Maynard’s husband and mother have lobbied for the California bill, saying it was one of her dying wishes.