Right-to-Die Bill Clears Key Calif. Assembly Committee

     SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – California lawmakers advanced legislation that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients with bipartisan support Tuesday, sending the contentious bill closer to an Assembly vote.
     Assembly Bill x2-15, titled the End of Life Option Act, was approved 10-3 by the Assembly Public Health and Developmental Services Committee and received Republican votes for the first time. The bill heads to a special-session finance committee and if successful there a full Assembly vote.
     Democratic lawmakers reintroduced the bill after Gov. Jerry Brown called a special session on health and health care. The original bill, Senate Bill 128, was tabled in July after strong opposition from several Catholic lawmakers sitting on the Assembly health committee.
     The bill’s authors were able to skip that committee by reintroducing the bill in the special-session agenda and adding amendments to the bill. Critics have accused the bill’s authors of exercising a loophole that fast-tracked the bill to give it a second chance.
     Brown’s office and other lawmakers have said it would be more appropriate for the End of Life Option Act to be heard in a full session next year. Brown announced the special session to deal primarily with health care and Medi-Cal issues, including increased Medi-Cal reimbursements for physicians and expanding health care to undocumented immigrants.
     Tuesday, in a room packed with terminally ill patients and their families, lawmakers gave the bill a second chance.
     “The End of Life Option Act was fairly heard today and passed the test. The people of California, who are in overwhelming support of our effort, have been heard,” said bill author Rep. Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton.
     Eggman said the bill is nearly identical to the original and that she was inspired to reintroduce the bill after two state judges ruled it’s up to the Legislature and not the courts to change the current law. Her bill would allow terminally ill patients to obtain lethal drugs from their doctors and administer them on their own.
     In order to obtain the prescriptions, patients with a terminal prognosis of six months to live or less would have to submit two oral requests 15 days apart and one written request. Terminal patients must also submit two written letters from witnesses verifying the patient’s request is voluntary.
     A recent statewide poll found 69 percent of California voters, including 60 percent of Catholic voters, support the End of Life Option Act. Four states currently have similar laws or court orders including Oregon, Montana, Vermont and Washington.
     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.
     Brown, who spoke with Maynard before she died, has not indicated his stance on the aid-in-dying bill.
     Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, thanked the committee for advancing the aid-in-dying bill. Monning had pushed the initial legislation earlier this year.
     “Every successful milestone moves us one step closer to providing a compassionate alternative for terminally ill patients who have run out of other treatment options,” Monning said in a statement.

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