Governor Jerry Brown signed the End of Life Option Act (ABX2 15) into law Monday, making California the fifth state to grant terminally-ill patients the right to choose physician-assisted suicide instead of treatment.
Similar to Oregon’s 1997 Death with Dignity Act, ABX2 15 allows “an adult who meets certain qualifications, and who has been determined by his or her attending physician to be suffering from a terminal disease, as defined, to make a request for a drug prescribed pursuant to these provisions for the purpose of ending his or her life.” Brown’s decision came after 10 months of debate, which included supportive testimonials from cancer patients and opposition from Catholics.
Brittany Maynard, a patient diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in November, chose to move from California to Oregon for a physician-assisted suicide. In a video “Compassion & Choices” released a year after her death, Maynard said she was glad to have the option to alleviate her suffering, learning she had less than six months to live.
“I can’t even tell you the amount of relief that I know that I don’t have to die in a way that’s been described to me, the way brain cancer would take me on my own,” Maynard said in the video.
Isla Vista Recreation and Park District Board member and UCSB alumnus Jacob Lebell said he has a personal connection to ABX2 15 because his uncle Jan Zlotnick passed away in discomfort.
“My cousin spent the last hours of his father’s life listening to him plead for his life to be over so that he could escape the suffering that was his body,” Lebell said. “He and our whole family thought that it was a great injustice that the only legal recourse he had to hasten his end to pain was to stop eating and finally drinking.”
Lebell’s aunt testified before the state senate on Zlotnick’s behalf.
College Republicans vice president and third-year political science and philosophy double major Jordan Petrich said she supports ABX2 15, but believes it should come with limitations.
“There are certainly situations in which allowing someone to die in their own time is better for them and their family than making them wait in pain for what will inevitably happen,” Petrich said. “With that being said, I do think there should be some limits to who is allowed to have the lethal injection in order to make sure the person is in a rational state and is not being influenced by outside sources.”
Assemblymember from District 34 Shannon Grove opposed Senate Bill 128, a piece of legislation similar to ABX2 15, when it came to the assembly in January. According to a press release, Grove said the bill may lead to insurance corruption.
“Although promoted as a compassionate option for the terminally ill, this bill will have a corrupting influence on public and private healthcare providers looking for ways to reduce the cost of end of life care,” Grove said.
Californians Against Assisted Suicide (CAAS) spokesperson Luis Alvarado said the bill could lead to unwarranted deaths.
“[Patients] may seek taking their life as an alternative to alleviate pressure from their immediate family’s financial burden,” Alvarado said.