(Sacramento, Calif. – Sept 25, 2015) The clock is ticking for California Gov. Jerry Brown to decide whether he will allow a bill to become law to give terminally ill adults the option of medical aid in dying. The bill would authorize adults with six months or less to live who are facing unbearable suffering to request a doctor’s prescription for medication that they could take to die painlessly and peacefully in their sleep.
Today Gov. Brown received the legislation, known as the End of Life Option Act (ABX2-15), authored by Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman, and coauthored by Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning and Senate Majority Whip Lois Wolk. Brown has 12 days, until Oct. 7, to sign or veto the bill. If he takes no action by midnight on Oct. 7, the legislation automatically becomes law.
“We hope Gov. Brown honors the will of the majority of Californians of every faith and demographic group by allowing the End of Life Option Act to become law.” said Compassion & Choices Campaign Director Toni Broaddus. “Californians just want to know that if they become terminally ill and their suffering becomes unbearable, they have the option to take prescription medication so they can die gently in their sleep.”
Three out of four Californians support the End of Life Option Act (ABX2-15), according to a poll released last month by the Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) at the University of California, Berkeley. Support levels included 82 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of independents, 67 percent of Republicans and at least 69 percent across all other demographic categories, from gender to educational, income and age levels.
“We urge Gov. Brown to look into his heart and make his decision based on what it tells him the people of California want and need,” said Christy O’Donnell, a 47-year-old single mom, attorney and former LAPD sergeant from Santa Clarita, who is dying from lung, brain, spine, rib and liver cancer. “Some terminally ill Californians like me are dying painfully because no hospice or palliative medication can relieve our suffering. We just want the option to die peacefully and end our suffering in our final days.”
The legislature passed the End of Life Option Act on Sept. 11, 10 months after the death of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old Californian with terminal brain cancer. She brought international attention to this issue when she had to move to Oregon to utilize its death-with-dignity law last November. In the final weeks of her life, Maynard and her family partnered with Compassion & Choices to launch a campaign on Oct. 6, 2014, to make aid in dying an open and accessible medical option.
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 documented case of abuse or coercion. Currently, three other states authorize medical aid in dying: Washington, Montana and Vermont. In addition, A New Mexico appellate court recently overturned a district court ruling that aid in dying is a fundamental right under the state constitution. But the case will be heard by the New Mexico Supreme Court.
“No parent should have to watch his or her child suffer like I did,” said Dr. Robert Olvera, a Harvard-trained physician from Santa Ana, whose 25-year-old daughter, Emily Rose, suffered horribly for 17 years from leukemia in her brain before her death last year. “Gov. Brown, please give Californians the option to die peacefully instead of living their last days in excruciating, unbearable pain.”