The morality of physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients has been a painful and controversial topic of debate for years. The conversation grew to a national scale during the very public trial and conviction of Dr. Jack Kevorkian in the 1990s. Now, new legislation in California is putting that discussion back on the table.
The "Right to Die" bill was signed into law by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown in early October, giving terminally ill patients the option to end their lives on their own terms.
Governor Brown released a statement along with the signing where he stated:
"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." - Governor Brown
The End of Life Option Act spells out very specific requirements for the legality of assisted suicide, such as the patient being given six months or less to live by two doctors, a written request, and two oral requests at least 15 days apart.
The "death with dignity" movement has been championed by terminally ill individuals like 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, whose family has taken on the cause since her death. Maynard's mother, Debbie Ziegler, traveled to Sacramento earlier this year to give a heartfelt argument for right-to-die laws, saying:
"Brittany fought to the end for expanded availability of end-of-life options in California. I will make my daughter proud by standing up and telling her story, even if my voice shakes." - Debbie Ziegler
Despite running into strong opposition from powerful groups such as the Catholic Church, California now joins the ranks of Vermont, Washington, Oregon, and Montana as the only states that currently offer an end-of-life option for terminally ill individuals.