A controversial proposal that would allow physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients in California failed to advance to the state legislature on Tuesday after facing strong opposition from pro-life organizations.
Last month, the State Senate approved SB128, also known as the "End of Life Option Act," in a vote of 23/15. While the proposed legislation was supposed to head to the Health Committee of California Assembly for ratification on July 7th, the authors on Tuesday concluded that it did not have enough support to pass the Assembly, thus withdrawing it from the scheduled hearing.
"We have chosen not to present SB128, the End of Life Option Act, today in the Assembly Health Committee," said a statement by the three authors, Assemblywoman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) and Democratic Sens. Lois Wolk of Davis and Bill Monning of Carmel.
The authors' statement said that while the bill is shelved for the year, they will continue to work with Assembly members "to ensure they are comfortable with the bill."
Had it passed, the bill would have authorized physicians to offer aid-in-dying to terminally ill patients in California providing the patients had received a prognosis of six months to live from two doctors, submitted a written request and two oral requests to a physician at least 15 days apart and possessed the mental competency to make decisions about their own health care. Currently, Oregon, Washington and Vermont are the only U.S. states to practice such right-to-die laws.
A coalition of several pro-life groups, including the Organization for Justice & Equality, Chinese Christians Union of San Francisco, California for Liberty and Patients Advocate, released a joint statement on Tuesday celebrating the shelving of the bill, calling it a "big victory of ordinary people especially patients, seniors and disabled persons."
"If SB128 was passed, it would likely open up the floodgate for hospitals and insurance companies to ask/demand patients to agree to be killed. Patients would be put in very vulnerable situations especially given the current problematic medical system in California," Frank Lee, President of Organization for Justice and Equality, stated in an email to the Gospel Herald. However, he urged those opposed to the bill to "be alert and work together assiduously and determinedly against any future attempt by the other side to protect ourselves and future generations."
As previously reported by the Gospel Herald, SB128 was first inspired by the story of Brittany Maynard, a terminally ill 29-year-old who moved from California to Oregon to end her life two months before the legislation was introduced in January.
In a series of videos released before and after her death, Maynard urged lawmakers to make "death with dignity" a more widely available option.
In an emailed statement to the Gospel Herald, Dr. Evelyn Li, President of Patients Advocate and North California Legal Commissioner of American College of Physicians, praised the withdrawal of the bill and emphasized the importance of choosing life despite a terminal diagnosis.
"We should be relieved for the outcome of today," she wrote. "Scientific breakthroughs in medical treatment and medication continue to occur. Nobody should give up easily. I have a female patient who begged to end her life about 20 years ago, was cured later and now is living a happy life with her husband and children."