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California Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Bill Legalizing Assisted Suicide

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Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last Monday a bill that will give terminally ill Californian patients the right to end their life via a lethal dose of drugs.

Through ABX2-15 or the assisted-death bill, California became the fourth among U.S. states to enact into law an end-of-life option for the terminally ill. It joins Oregon, Washington, and Vermont with this law that will take effect for 10 years starting in 2016.

Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student, consulted with a Catholic bishop and religious leaders, advocates for the disabled, his own doctors and even Archbishop Desmond Tutu in deciding whether to approve the bill, which faced opposition from groups such as the Catholic Church.

The governor said ABX2-15 is not an ordinary bill because it is a matter of life and death.

“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,” Brown said in his signing message.

The bill, which enacts the End of Life Option Act, outlines the conditions under which terminally ill but mentally able patients can receive a lethal dose of drug.

Prior to prescription, two California physicians must agree that the patient only has up to six months to live and then leave the choice to him or her, who must affirm intention 48 hours ahead. The patient should administer the drugs on his or her own, and without help.

The signing of the bill occurred nearly one year to the day Brittany Maynard launched her online campaign for death in dignity to be available nationwide. Brown said “heartfelt pleas” from Maynard’s family were part of letters of support for the assisted-death bill that he received.

Maynard was the 29-year-old Californian who was dying of brain cancer and went to Oregon last year to take her own life through the state’s Death with Dignity Act. Maynard spoke with Brown three days prior to her death.

The new law was supported by groups such as Compassion & Choices, which dubbed it "the biggest victory" for the death-with-dignity movement since Oregon passed the first law in the United States two decades ago.

On the other hand, anti-assisted suicide groups spoke against the newly signed law.

Tim Rosales, spokesman for Californians Against Assisted Suicide, called it “a dark day for California and for the Brown legacy,” citing Californians steeped in healthcare poverty without the same access to the best medical care and doctors and are “potentially hurt” by the legislation.

The coalition, according to Catholic Church officials, is considering a lawsuit and a referendum as part of its options.

In 1992, the California electorate rejected a broader ruling that would allow doctors to administer lethal drug injections to the terminally ill. Bills offering patients the same right failed to be passed into law in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

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