Legislators in the state of California voted to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives after an emotional debate on Sept. 11.
The right-to-die bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 23-14 on the last day of the legislative session. The approval was influenced by the story of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old death for dignity advocate with terminal brain cancer who brought a renewed focus to medical aid-in-dying.
Voting Yes To Medial Aid-In-Dying
The original right-to-die bill passed in the Senate but didn’t make it through the entire legislative process. It has since been revised, with the altered version requiring approval from two doctors and the presence of two witnesses. The final stipulation is that the patient must be able to take the medication themselves after submitting multiple written requests.
After an initial failure to pass, the bill will now permit doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to patients. The case of Brittany Maynard is believed to have heavily influenced the legislative outcome.
Maynard was a California woman with terminal brain cancer who only had a few months left to live. She moved to Oregon from California after being denied the right to medically take her own life. Right-to-die medications are also permitted in Washington, Vermont and Montana.
The bill is extremely controversial. Those who argued for its approval believed it was important to assist terminally ill patients in avoiding a painful, drawn out death. Maynard’s relatives were present at the debate.
“Eliminate the needless pain and the long suffering of those who are dying,” urged Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), one of the bill’s co-authors.
But the bills opponents worried that the law would leave too many unanswered questions. They predicted an increase in premature suicides.
“I’m not going to push the old or the weak out of this world, and I think that could be the unintended consequence of this legislation,” said Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Roseville).
An Uncertain Future
The bill may not make it to the final stages if Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, refuses to sign it into law.
But a video testimony from Maynard, released by her husband a few weeks before her death, urges the government to make the law a permanent fixture in California. The testimony was played at the hearing.
“As elected officials, you have the power to make this happen,” Maynard said her video testimony. “Please take action. Every terminally ill American deserves the choice to die with dignity. Let the movement begin here, now. Access to this choice lies in your hands. Freedom from prolonged pain and suffering is a most basic human right. Please make death with dignity an American health care choice.”
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