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California lawmakers introduce the End of Life Option Act

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A group of California legislators, including Central Coast Sen. Bill Monning, introduced a bill that would give terminally ill adults the option to receive and self-administer aid-in-dying medication in California.

Speaking at a press conference on Jan. 21, Monning joined Sen. Lois Wolk and Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman to unveil the bill.

According to a bill summary provided by Monning’s office, SB 128—also referred to as the End of Life Option Act—would allow a “terminally ill, mentally competent California adult resident the legal right to ask and receive a prescription to hasten death from his 
or her physician after all required criteria is met.”

Under the planned language, the bill would require that patients obtain a confirmation of prognosis by two physicians that he or she has six months or less to live and that he or she is mentally competent. The new law would also require a written request and two oral requests that must be made at least 15 days apart, with two witnesses to attest to the requests. In addition, a physician who chooses to participate must also discuss alternative treatment options with the patient.

The bill seeks to establish safeguards for health-care providers so they would be immune from both civil and criminal liability and able to opt out from providing end-of-life services. The bill includes additional felony penalties for providers who coerce a patient or forge 
a request.

Modeled after Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which that state’s voters approved in 1994, the new legislation is in part inspired by the struggles of 29-year-old California resident Brittany Maynard, who received international attention after she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and sought aid-in-dying relief under the Oregon law. Surrounded by loved ones, Maynard ended her life on Nov. 1, 2014, in Portland, Ore.

California lawmakers introduced a similar bill in 2005, but it was never brought to a vote. Aid-in-dying services are also legal in Washington, Montana, New Mexico, and Vermont, and lawmakers in several other states have made pledges to introduce similar legislation.

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