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California Committee Sends Medical Aid-in-Dying Bill to Senate Floor

(Sacramento, CA – May 28, 2015) Compassion & Choices today is pleased to report that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a bill that would authorize the option of medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults. The vote was 5-2.

The legislation, the End of Life Option Act (SB 128), would allow mentally competent adults with six months or less to live the option to request prescription medication they could take to painlessly and peacefully end an unbearable dying process. A vote on the Senate floor is now expected to happen next week.

“We thank the committee members for responding to the voices of terminally ill Californians who face unbearable suffering, even with the best hospice and palliative care,” said Compassion & Choices California Campaign Director Toni Broaddus. “Dying people in agony desperately need more end-of-life options. That’s why we are confident the full Senate will respond to this demand by passing this bill before its June 5 deadline for legislative action.”

The End of Life Option Act is closely modeled after the death-with-dignity law in Oregon. It has worked well for 17 years, without a single proven case of abuse or coercion. Currently, four other states authorize medical aid in dying: Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico. These states’ aid-in-dying policies have proven to be good, safe medical practice.

California voters support the medical option of aid in dying by more than a 2-1 margin (64 % vs. 24 %), according to a 2014 poll. Yet, nearly two decades after Oregon voters rejected a ballot initiative to stop implementation of our nation’s first death-with-dignity law in 1997, California still has not authorized this option.

Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old Californian who had terminal brain cancer, brought international attention to this issue when she had to move to Oregon to utilize its death-with-dignity law last year. In the final weeks of her life, Maynard partnered with Compassion & Choices to launch a campaign to make aid in dying an open and accessible medical option in California and 44 other states nationwide. Since then, legislators in the District of Columbia and at least 23 states have introduced bills authorizing this end-of-life option.