A controversial bill that would allow doctors in California to prescribe lethal prescriptions to terminal patients wanting to hasten their own deaths passed a key legislative committee despite failing in the legislature earlier this summer amid opposition from pro-life and religious leaders.
The San Francisco Gates reports that on Tuesday, the "right-to-die" measure passed 10-3, allowing it to go on to the assembly finance committee.
Formerly known as SB128, the bill was pulled from consideration in the legislature's regular session in July but was reintroduced last month as part of a special session on healthcare called by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.
"The more time we've had to work on it, the more support we have," said Senator Bill Monning, a Democrat from Carmel who is a co-author of the bill. "Every major newspaper in the state has editorialized in support."
If passed, Bill ABX2-15, also known as the End of Life Option Act, would "allow mentally-capable, terminally-ill adults the option to request a doctor's prescription for aid-in-dying drugs to painlessly and peacefully hasten their death."
Currently, the right-to-die practice for terminally ill patients is legal in five states, including Oregon, where assisted suicide advocate Brittany Maynard famously ended her life at the age of 29.
The bill has been met with strong opposition from many pro-life and religious leaders, including Rick Warren, prominent author and Pastor of Saddleback Church.
Speaking at conference in April, Warren explained that he opposes the bill not only as a theologian, but also as a father of a son who took his own life after battling mental illness.
"I oppose this law as a theologian and as the father of a son who took his life after struggling with mental illness for 27 years," Warren said, referring to his son, Matthew, who took committed suicide in 2013 after struggling with depression for many years.
Warren cited several Bible examples wherein Moses, Elijah, Jonah and Job begged God to take their lives and put them out of their misery. However, God denied each of their requests because He had better plans for their lives.
"The prospect of dying can be frightening," he added. "But we belong to God, and death and life are in God's hands. ... We need to make a radical commitment to be there for those who are dying in our lives."
In July, 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 warning that if passed, the bill would create "disastrous consequences for patients in California and take us in the wrong direction."
"One of the current bad trends of the world is to give the insurance companies and hospitals more chances/authorities to profit by encouraging or even telling patients to commit suicide," the joint statement reads. "California Senate bill 128 (SB128) is a pernicious attempt along this line and must be stopped! This bill which violates basic principles, does not provide a proper cool-off period to patients for euthanasia and the patient's' family members can be left in the dark, putting patients in very vulnerable situations especially given the current problematic medical system."
The statement, which was made available to The Gospel Herald via email, emphasizes that most importantly, "We need to trust and rely on God" as "it is much better to follow His lead rather than our own thinking."