California will become the fifth state in the nation to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives using doctor-prescribed drugs. On Monday, October 5, 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he signed one of the most emotionally charged bills of the year.
In a highly personal statement the governor stated he had reflected “on what I would want in the face of my own death” and decided that those in such situations should have the choice.
Perhaps the most visible face of passage of this law was Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old California woman who suffered from terminal brain cancer and moved to Oregon explicitly because the state permits aid-in-dying. Maynard used the law to end her life last November. Brittany Maynard’s family attended the legislative debate in California throughout the year. Maynard’s mother, Debbie Ziegler, testified in committee hearings and carried a large picture of her daughter as she listened to lawmaker’s debate.
One of the key co-authors of the legislation, Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, said the signing “marks a historic day in California” and called the governor’s thoughts “a powerful statement.”
The assisted-death bill, ABX2-15, is extraordinary “because it deals with life and death,” Brown wrote in his signing message. “The crux of the matter is whether the state of California should continue to make it a crime for a dying person to end his life, no matter how great his pain or suffering.”
The bill requires patients be physically capable of taking the medication themselves, that two doctors approve it, that the patient submit several written requests, and that there be two witnesses, one of whom is not a family member.
The law will take effect sometime in 2016, 91 days after the special healthcare legislative session concludes.