California will become the fifth US state to allow doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients, after Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law.
In an unusually personal signing message, the governor, a former Jesuit seminarian, signalled how torn he was by the issue.
‘‘ I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain,’’ he wrote. ‘‘ I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.’’
The law will take effect 90 days after the special legislative session in which it was passed adjourns, likely to be sometime next year.
Oregon has allowed what opponents call ‘‘ assisted suicide’ ’ and supporters term ‘‘ aid in dying’ ’ since 1997, and after a Supreme Court ruling in 2006, Washington, Montana and Vermont also approved the practice. Opponents have long worried that ill and disabled people could be coerced into choosing death over more care, which can be expensive and burdensome . The Catholic Church also helped lead opposition. Dr Aaron Kheriaty, director of the medical ethics program at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, said a number of hospitals could refuse to offer lifeending drugs, to preserve their reputations and relationships with patients.
‘‘ I worry about what this is going to do to the perception of medicine ,’’ he said. ‘‘ I think you’re going to see more and more mistrust of medical professionals by patients worried about what will happen if they enrol in end-of-life care.’’
Past efforts to allow assisted suicide in California had failed. But this year, support was galvanised by the case of cancer sufferer Brittany Maynard who moved her family to Oregon so she could die of brain cancer on her own terms.
New York Times | United States | Ian Lovett | Los Angeles