California Assembly Approves Physician-Assisted Death Bill

On Wednesday, the Assembly voted 43-34 to pass a bill (ABX2-15) that would legalize physician-assisted death in California, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Calefati/Seipel, San Jose Mercury News, 9/9).

Background

Assembly member Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) introduced the legislation after a similar measure (SB 128) stalled in July amid a lack of support in the Assembly Committee on Health.

Like the stalled bill, ABX2-15 would allow some dying patients to end their lives through lethal doses of medication, as long as:

  • Medication is self-administered;
  • The patient is mentally competent; and
  • Two physicians confirm the prognosis that the patient has six months or less to live.

Several amendments have been added to the bill in the special session, including one that would require patients to reaffirm their consent within 48 hours prior to taking the lethal dose of medication.

The bill’s authors also added an amendment that would sunset the law after a decade, making it effective only until Jan. 1, 2026, if passed (California Healthline, 9/8). However, the state Legislature could vote to extend it (Bernstein, Reuters, 9/9).

Details of Vote

During the hearing, some lawmakers said the bill could negatively affect low-income and minority residents who lack access to care. They said the measure could encourage such individuals to end their lives rather than seek treatment.

However, Eggman said, “What [the bill] will do is provide a measure of freedom to people who are dying.”

Assembly member Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said terminally ill “Californians do not have another legislative session to wait for us” (White, “Capitol Alert,” Sacramento Bee, 9/9).

Several Republican lawmakers twice tried to block the vote on procedural grounds, claiming that the special session was not an appropriate venue to debate the right-to-die measure (Williams, AP/San Francisco, 9/9). However, they failed both attempts (Dembosky, “State of Health,” KQED, 9/9).

Next Steps

The bill now returns to the full state Senate, which is expected to endorse the measure after it approved an earlier version of the bill (“State of Health,” KQED, 9/9).

According to Reuters, the state Legislature has until midnight on Friday to pass regular-session bills. However, lawmakers can stay longer to address special-session measures.

If approved by the state Senate, the bill then would head to Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who has not indicated whether he would sign or veto the measure (Reuters, 9/9).

Source: California Healthline