California Assembly approves assisted-suicide bill during Suicide Prevention Week

On World Suicide Prevention Day, the California Assembly approved a state assisted-suicide bill, which is expected to pass the California Senate. If passed, California would become the fifth state to legalize assisted suicide, joining Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana, reports Reuters.

Under the bill, passed 43-34, “two doctors would have to determine that a patient had no more than six months to live before the medication could be prescribed.”

The bill has additional stipulations. Reuters notes:

It also would require a patient seeking life-ending drugs to be mentally competent and to present two separate requests to an attending physician and for two witnesses to attest to the patient’s wish to die.

The bill makes it a felony to coerce, trick or force someone into taking the medication.

29-year-old brain cancer patient Brittany Maynard’s death by assisted-suicide is said to have been an “impetus” for the bill:

A measure introduced after Maynard’s death won the support of the state Senate in June, but died in the Assembly’s Health Committee, amid opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, disability rights advocates and others.

After finally clearing the full Assembly, the measure now returns to the Senate, where it is seen as likely to pass again….

The article notes that Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, “has not taken a position on the legislation.” If the bill passes the Senate as expected and Brown does not veto it, the law would go into effect next year.  Those opposed “have raised concerns that disabled patients, especially the poor, will be pushed to end their lives by insurance companies or relatives who did not want to care for them.”

The bill contains “sunset” language and “would expire in 10 years unless the Legislature voted to extend it.” It was passed by 40 Democrats and three Republicans.

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