Inspired by the case of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old California woman terminally ill with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to commit suicide legally, two California lawmakers have introduced a bill to permit assisted suicide.
The End of Life Option Act from State Sens. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) and Bill Manning (D-Carmel) would allow terminally ill Californians to use doctor-prescribed drugs to commit suicide.
The bill stipulates that two California doctors would have to state that a mentally competent patient would die in six months or less, then counsel the patients as to alternative treatments such as palliative care and pain control. The requirements for the dying patient would include a written request for aid in dying, and two oral requests, each written at least 15 days apart. The patient would have to administer the fatal dose themselves.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that doctors, pharmacists and health care providers would participate voluntarily; they could not be prosecuted for their involvement. Anyone coercing a patient to request assisted suicide or forging such a request would face felony charges.
The California Medical Association has remained noncommittal on the issue, but has opposed prior legislation championing assisted suicide. A ballot initiative similar to the present bill failed in 1992, and four similar legislative bills failed 1995 and 2008.
Opponents of the bill include the Catholic Church and disability groups. Tim Rosales, the Sacramento-based spokesman for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, told the Chronicle, “We are prepared to aggressively fight against it.”
Correction: Mr. Rosales’s group was referred to, incorrectly, as “Catholics Against Assisted Suicide.” We regret the error.