California became the fifth state to enact right-to-die legislation when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the End of Life Option Act into law on Monday.
The legislation, ABX2-15, gives terminally ill patients in the state of California the right to kill themselves using doctor-prescribed drugs.
“I have considered the theological and religious perspectives that any deliberate shortening of one’s life is sinful,” Brown, a lifelong Catholic, wrote in a letter to state lawmakers after signing the bill.
“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” he added. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. 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 legislation mandates that patients requesting the right to die must be able to take the medication themselves, must submit multiple written requests and must have two witnesses present, one of whom must not be a family member.
A number of state groups had lobbied hard against the passage of the bill, including the California Pro-Life Council and Californians Against Assisted Suicide. The latter listed dozens of organizations it said opposed assisted suicide on its website, including the American Medical Association, the American College of Pediatricians, the California Latino Medical Association and the California Family Alliance.
“This is a dark day for California and for the Brown legacy,” Californians Against Assisted Suicide said in a statement after the signing. “As someone of wealth and access to the world’s best medical care and doctors, the Governor’s background is very different than that of millions of Californians living in healthcare poverty without that same access – these are the people and families potentially hurt by giving doctors the power to prescribe lethal overdoses to patients.”
The group vowed to review “all its options moving forward.”
California joins Oregon, Vermont, Montana and Washington in approving right-to-die legislation.
The highly-publicized case of Brittany Maynard ignited a national debate about right-to-die legislation last year. Maynard, a 29-year-old California woman with terminal brain cancer, traveled to Oregon to end her own life under the state’s Death with Dignity Act in November.