SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown today signed controversial legislation allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who want to hasten their deaths.
Approving the bill, whose opponents included the Catholic Church, appeared to be a gut-wrenching decision for the 77-year-old governor, who as a young man studied to enter the priesthood.
“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” Brown added. “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. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”
California becomes the fifth state to allow so-called assisted suicide, following Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont.
The new law is modeled after Oregon’s. It permits physicians to provide lethal prescriptions to mentally competent adults who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and face the expectation that they will die within six months.
The law will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns its special session on healthcare, which may not be until next year. The earliest likely adjournment would be in January.