California – State governor Jerry Brown signed on Monday a bill giving terminally ill patients in California the possibility to be prescribed with lethal doses of drugs to terminate their lives.

The bill is projected at physicians prescribing mentally competent adults who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and face the expectation that they will die within six months. California will become only the fourth state to offer such an option to terminally ill people when the law takes effect next year.

California has joined four other US states that allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives with a doctor’s supervision. The other states in which is legal are Washington, Oregon, Vermont and Bernalillo County, New Mexico; and its status is disputed in Montana. Credit: MMC News

To make the decision, Brown said he had considered the issue from “theological and religious perspectives” as a former Jesuit seminarian who worked for a time with Mother Teresa in India in the late 1980s to aid the dying and ended speculation over whether he would sign a bill that was opposed by the Catholic Church.

He said he had discussed the issue with a Catholic bishop, two of his doctors, and even South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who has spoken out in favor of “dignity for the dying.”

“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death […] I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others,” Brown stated as reported by the San Francisco Gate.

The governor’s bill ends with months of debates over the End of Life Option Act unleashed after Brittany Maynard’s decision to end her life went viral on October 4, 2014.

Brittany’s Case

Brittany Maynard of Alamo, a 29-year-old school teacher, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in spring 2014 and aware that her rapidly growing tumor foretold a painful death. Maynard left California and moved to Oregon to take advantage of the state’s “Death With Dignity” law and receive a fatal dose of the barbiturate Seconal which divided physicians, ethicists, religious leaders and the Democratic majority in the Legislature over the topic.

Brittany Maynard
Brittany was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and was given six months to live by her California physician. So she and her husband decided to move to Oregon. There, she obtained a lethal dose of barbiturates. Credit: Huffington Post

“This is the biggest victory for the death-with-dignity movement since Oregon passed the nation’s first law two decades ago […] Enactment of this law in California means we are providing this option to more than 1 in 10 Americans,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, president of the group Compassion & Choices, which pushed for the new law.

Source: San Francisco Gate