Assisted-Dying Bill Clears California Senate

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – The California state Senate approved a bill Thursday that would let terminally ill patients end their lives with prescribed medication.
     The controversial measure now heads to the state Assembly for approval.
     Senate Bill 128, better known as the End of Life Option Act, was approved 23-14 but not before heated debate between lawmakers.
     Senators shared personal stories of family members battling terminal cancer, urging their colleagues to vote yes and follow Washington, Vermont and Oregon by allowing assisted dying.
     One of the bill’s authors, Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, described the bill as a “compassionate option” and a means for patients to have “death with dignity.” California has voted down similar bills on several occasions, most recently in 2007 where it never made it out of committee.
     The majority party carried the vote as every Republican Senator voted against SB 128 – joined by just one Democrat.
     “Patients at end of life need care, not tools to take their life,” said Sen. Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga. “We are sending a signal that suicide is OK.”
     The controversial bill mirrors Oregon’s 1997 law and allows patients with less than six months to live to receive lethal prescriptions after several standards are met.
     Patients must receive two documented prognoses, execute written and oral requests for the medication at least 15 days apart and they must administer the dose themselves.
     Just over 1,000 people have requested the prescriptions in Oregon in 17 years, including the highly publicized case of Brittany Maynard who moved from California to Oregon to end her life with her doctor’s assistance.
     Maynard advocated and publicly campaigned to enable “aid in dying” in California, and her family was in attendance at the Capitol on Thursday.
     SB 128 received a jolt of support last month when the California Medical Association dropped its opposition to the bill.
     Still, opponents of the bill commented on the possibility that a doctor’s prognosis could be wrong and that the SB 128 could discourage people with disabilities to continue fighting.
     “This bill tells people with disabilities who face a terminal diagnosis, that may well prove inaccurate, that there is no dignity in our lives,” Marilyn Golden of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund said in a statement.
     The bill advances to the Assembly where it will face three different committees before a final vote. If it passes, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Catholic, will have the opportunity to sign or veto the bill.

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