On June 4, 2015 the California Senate passed legislation (SB 128) that would advance a bill allowing people who are terminally ill with less than 6 months to live to receive medication that would end their lives. The bill, which passed 23-14, was modeled after a law that was passed in Oregon in 1997. Oregon is a “Right to Die” state, and if the bill passes in California, it will become the sixth such state.

Previously, the California Medical Association had objected to the passing of a similar bill. However, that organization has now dropped its objection because their doctors are allowed to opt out. SB 128 will now go to the Assembly For approval. If and when the final bill is passed, it will go to the Governor for signing. The text of the bill can be found on the government site.

Debate of Legislation SB 128

There are debates on both sides to passing SB 128. The Republicans in the Senate objected to passing the bill because they felt it devalued life, and gave sick people a reason to give up. The Catholic Church, disability rights organizations, and other groups such as Californians Against Assisted Suicide have also objected to its passing.

At this time, the vote in the Assembly has been delayed until July 7. According to the Los Angeles Times, the delay was caused by a lack of support. The deadline to pass the bill is September 11. There are many organizations supporting SB-128 – giving the patients the ability to decide their treatment.  For more information look at Compassion & Choices their goals are stated below:

Compassion & Choices works with individuals and allied organizations throughout America to:

  1. Make aid in dying an open, legitimate option recognized throughout the medical field and permitted in more states.
  2. Increase patient control and reduce unwanted interventions at the end of life.
  3. Pass additional laws ensuring full information and access to all end-of-life care options.
  4. Normalize accurate, unbiased language throughout the end-of-life choice discussion (“aid in dying” instead of “assisted suicide”).
  5. Establish aid in dying as a prime motivator in voter decision-making.
  6. Support the expansion of the end-of-life choice movement and exert a leadership role in it.

For some specific stories of individuals from the Compassion & Choices website detailing their personal struggles are very interesting

It is unusual that one of the items that causes the most arguments is the use of the term assisted suicide. That is one of the reasons the use of the terms aid in dying, end of life, right to die, and death with dignity are preferred. Just using the term suicide can cause votes against the legislation.

The internet and social media are playing a role in the arguments back and forth about the bill. There is a Facebook page for each side and as we come closer to the vote in California you will hear more regarding this issue.  As well many news organizations are posting opinions. For additional information on this from around the United States the Death with Dignity Organization has an excellent graphic. This is an important topic so informed on the debate.

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