California Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Right to Die Act

Brittany Maynard, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at 29, moved from California to Oregon, where physician assisted suicide is legal, dying there because California forbids the practice.Photo courtesy of Mariano Cuajao via Flickr
Brittany Maynard, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at 29, moved from California to Oregon, where physician assisted suicide is legal, dying there because California forbids the practice.Photo courtesy of Mariano Cuajao via Flickr

Brittany Maynard wasn’t in the California Senate Thursday (June 4) when it overwhelmingly approved right-to-die legislation.

But surely people heard the echoing voice of the young woman with aggressive brain cancer who chose to die Nov. 1.

In a series of emotional videos (sponsored by right-to-die backer Compassion & Choices) Maynard told the world she felt forced to leave her California home for Oregon to die as she wanted to die – with a legal lethal prescription. And she wanted her voice from the grave to encourage people to seek such legislation in every state.

Her family was at the Senate on Thursday when the End of Life Options Act passed. It now moves to the State Assembly. If it passes there, the governor has not yet said whether he would sign Act and make California the sixth and most populous state to allow physician-assisted dying.

That’s what it’s called: Physician-assisted dying. The summary of SB 128 spells out that it “provides peace of mind and control for the terminally ill Californians while safeguarding against coercion for those who are vulnerable..”

Indeed, along with lengthy and complex procedures to safeguard the process from abuse, along with exemptions for any health care practitioner and any health institution that refuses to offer such assistance, the act specifically stipulates that it is not be called “suicide.”

“Suicide” calls to mind depressed folks and lovesick teens – not a 29-year-old with an incurable tumor about to rob her of her sense of self, as Maynard called it. It’s for people with incurable and irreversible illness that will certainly kill them. The only question is whether the suffering person decides when.

“Californians with terminal diseases should have the autonomy to approach death on their own terms, and I look forward to continuing this policy discussion in the Assembly,” Sen. Majority Leader Bill Monning, one of the backers of the bill, said in a statement Thursday.

Similar right-to-die legislation is already law in Oregon, Washington State, Montana and Vermont and under discussion in a nearly a dozen more states.

Opponents – who invariably call it “suicide” and sometimes incorrectly link it with deliberate killing or euthanasia -– view such bills as a horrendous attack on the chronically ill and disabled and vulnerable. Dozens of faith-based hospitals and institutions and religious groups particularly evangelical and Catholic leaders, and disability rights groups testified against the act..

“What kind of society are we? I don’t believe we are in a disposable one, when it comes to shortcutting the natural course of life,” said Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, according to the Contra Costa Times coverage.

Sen. Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, raised the alarm: “We are becoming a culture that devalues life.”

However, the law also stipulates that the person seeking to die at their own hand with a physician-prescribed lethal drug, must be able to make the request themselves directly — advance directives or a request by someone else acting with power of attorney will not be accepted.

And doctors must “inform the individual of feasible alternatives or additional treatment options including, but not limited to, comfort care, hospice care, palliative care, and pain control.”‘

Monning’s reply to critics: “It is our constitutional responsibility to navigate the shores of a changing world — a world that sees this option as a compassionate option: death with dignity.”

Click here for more.

SOURCE: Religion News Service
Cathy Lynn Grossman

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