Calif. Lawmakers Resurrect Right-to-Die Bill

     SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Citing strong poll numbers and increased safeguards over lethal medication, California lawmakers on Tuesday revived a bill allowing terminally ill patients to end their lives.
     A group of Democratic lawmakers reintroduced Senate Bill 128, now titled AB X2-15, a month after the bill’s authors tabled it in committee due to a lack of support. The bill, known as the End of Life Option Act, would allow doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients
     The bill’s authors said the latest version contains enhanced regulations to prevent the fraudulent prescription of lethal medications and its control measures are stronger than Oregon’s law, which allows terminal patients to end their own lives.
     Co-author Autumn Burke, D-Marina Del Rey, blasted lawmakers for opposing the bill and said current laws tie the hands of terminally ill patients.
     “Dying Californians deserve better than fear-mongering; they deserve real choices; they deserve to have their family and friends around them during their final days,” Burke said.
     While the bill cleared the state Senate by a 23-14 margin in June, its authors could not gain the support of several Assembly Democrats who spoke out publicly against the End of Life Option Act, citing their Catholic faith. The bill became a contentious bipartisan issue, as it did not receive a single Republican vote in the assembly.
     Despite tabling the bill, lawmakers and supporters vowed to improve the legislation and continue to fight for patients to choose their own health care options. The bill’s authors were able to revive discussions after Gov. Jerry Brown announced of a special session on health and health care.
     AB X2-15 faces a critical first test in the Assembly Health Committee. Already pulled twice from the health committee’s agenda, it will be heard by several lawmakers who have previously denounced the bill.
     The legislation was originally inspired by the story of Brittany Maynard, a California resident who moved to Oregon to legally end her fight against terminal brain cancer. Maynard left a video before she died imploring California lawmakers to adopt similar legislation, and her family has continued to support SB 128.
     Speaking in front of a blown-up magazine cover of Brittany, her husband Dan Diaz told reporters about his wife’s struggle with brain cancer and her move to Oregon.
     “Brittany simply took the control back from the tumor, so that she could have a peaceful passing and avoid the terrifying and painful death that was otherwise coming for her,” Diaz said. “Brittany died peacefully in her sleep on Nov. 1 of last year.”
     Opponents of the bill say allowing doctors to prescribe lethal medication could set a dangerous precedent and discourage people from fighting doctors’ often-wrong prognoses.
     Meanwhile, supporters point to data which shows that over the last two decades since Oregon adopted similar legislation, hospice rates have increased and a relatively small number of patients are actually using the life-ending medication. Recent polls show that nearly 70 percent of Californians want to see the End of Life Option Act become law.
     Four states currently have laws or court orders similar to the End of Life Option Act.
     Elizabeth Wallner, 51, was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer and recently sued the state for denying her access to proper medical care. Wallner said she’s been fighting the cancer over four years and having her family watch her struggle scares her more than the cancer itself.
     “I don’t want my son’s last image to be of me struggling in pain,” Wallner said between tears. “I want this option for me to be able to make a choice and die at home.”

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