A bill that would allow terminally ill patients in California to end their own lives with help from their doctors has just passed through the state Assembly on its way to a state Senate vote, as the AP reports. The Senate is expected to approve the bill, having already approved an earlier version of it.
The original bill, SB 128, the End of Life Option Act, was stalled over the summer when the Assembly Health Committee held off in presenting it because of some apparent lack of support among committee members. But then an amended bill, AB X2-15, began moving through committees again last week, and today passed a difficult vote in the full Assembly, 42-33.
Present at the state house today and last week were the mother and widowed husband of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old woman with aggressive brain cancer who moved her entire family to Oregon last year in order to die with dignity in November.
Over 11 million people watched Maynard's's videos, produced by the organization Compassion & Choices, and her story is credited with propelling this revived movement to pass a right-to-die law in California.
Also active in trying to get the bill passed is Christy O'Donnell, 47, the California woman we first learned about in May who has terminal, metastasized lung cancer, and who hopes to be able to end her life before making her 21-year-old daughter suffer through her slow and painful decline. O'Donnell has appeared multiple times in Sacramento the last several months, including at a press conference following a judge's decision in July in which California's 141-year-old law preventing physician-assisted suicide.
O'Donnell, a civil rights attorney who was previously a Los Angeles police officer, said in May, "People like me and my daughter are the casualties of the delay in passing these laws." And while the law may not take effect in time to help her particular situation, she said, "Someday, when this law passes, my daughter... will know she played some small part in this, and when that law passes she will know that some other little girl will not have to suffer the way she suffered by watching me die."
Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman amended her bill to appease colleagues, allowing it to sunset in 10 years, "at which time lawmakers could review how the law worked and decide whether to grant an extension," as the LA Times reports.
Furthermore, "The End of Life Option Act would require patients to submit two oral requests, a minimum of 15 days apart, and a written request, and for the attending physician to personally receive all three requests."
The Catholic Church has also, of course, vehemently opposed the bill, as have advocates for the disabled, who fear that it will be used to coerce them to end their lives prematurely.
But the bill has been based on an Oregon law that has been in effect almost two decades (other laws exist in Washington and Vermont), and only a handful of cases have been recorded in which patients' choice in the matter appears to have been impaired by disability. Widespread abuses of the law have not been reported, and overall, the vast majority of Californians now appear to support such a law.