Victory! California legalises assisted dying

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On Friday September 11th 2015, the California legislature passed an assisted dying bill, the End Of Life Option Act, modelled on the Oregon Death With Dignity Act which has been in effect since 1997. It had been a long and tortuous wait to see if Governor Jerry Brown would sign the Bill into law.

It is reported that Governor Brown struggled to decide whether to sign the Bill which was actively opposed by the Catholic Church. Governor Brown is a former Jesuit seminary student. He sought views from his doctors, from a Catholic Bishop, from disability advocates, retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others, to reach a decision. While he had given no indication of his views or intention to sign, historically he has supported abortion rights, contrary to the teachings of the Vatican.

On Monday October 5th, he signed the Bill. It will come into effect 90 days after the California legislature adjourns its special session on healthcare. But that may not be for some months yet, even as long as late next year.

Governor Brown said "I have considered the theological and religious perspectives that any deliberate shortening of one's life is sinful."

"I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excrutiating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the otpions afforded by this bill. And I wouldn't deny that right to others," he wrote in his affirmation of the Bill.

California joins Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont to afford their citizens the respect to make their own decicions about the possibility of a hastened death at the end of life. Around one in six Americans now has legal access to restricted assisted dying.

Dissatisfied that the legislature and the Governor have spoken on behalf of the overwhelming majority of Californians who support the measure, Catholic-backed Californians Against Assisted Suicide is considering a range of countermeasures, including a legal challenge and a referendum.


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