SACRAMENTO (CN) - Opponents of California's assisted-death bill filed referendum papers Tuesday, just one day after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the contentious bill into law.
To put the referendum on the 2016 November general election, Seniors Against Suicide has 90 days to collect a minimum of 365,880 signatures.
Noting that "illness is never a reason for ending a life," a spokesman for the group noted in a letter to the state's attorney general that Seniors Against Suicide opposes "medically killing depressed and ill patients."
The legislation Brown signed Monday, The End of Life Option Act, is modeled after Oregon's Death-With-Dignity law. In a passionate signing letter, Brown said he decided to sign the bill after consulting with his doctors and Catholic bishops.
"I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain," Brown wrote. "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."
The bill received bipartisan opposition from state lawmakers as well as the Catholic Church. Opponents fear allowing terminally ill patients access to lethal medication could send the wrong message to the state's disabled and elderly population.
Californians Against Assisted Suicide, a group of doctors and religious activists, called Monday a "dark day for California and for the Brown Legacy." The group said Monday that it is considering all of its options, though it's unclear if they will participate in the referendum measure filed Tuesday.
Supporters of the legislation meanwhile called Monday the biggest victory for medical aid in dying since Oregon passed its law in 1994.
Christy O'Donnell, one of the plaintiffs in the challenge to California previous laws banning doctors from prescribing life-ending drugs, thanked Brown for showing compassion to terminally ill patients.
"Governor Brown, you have made me a proud Californian today - knowing I live in a state where our governor acts in accordance with what his people need, want and deserve, in this case, a peaceful and pain-free death with their family," said O'Donnell, 47, who lives with terminal brain and liver cancer.
A recent statewide poll found 69 percent of California voters support the bill, including 60 percent of Catholic voters. The bill will take effect 90 days after the special session on health care is finished.
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