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California Senate Approves End of Life Option Act in a Monumental Step Toward Death with Dignity

June 4, 2015

The Death with Dignity National Center today applauds the California Senate for approving Senate Bill 128 – End of Life Option Act, which will allow terminally ill adults with six months or less to live the right to obtain a prescription medication to end their pain and suffering. The bill passed on a 23-14 vote, and now heads to the State Assembly.

Our political arm, the Death with Dignity Political Fund, has been integral in drafting and promoting the bill, underscored to our Executive Director Peg Sandeen. “We are pleased to see our work culminate in this historic vote, a monumental step toward providing Death with Dignity as an end-of-life option for qualified Californians.”

One such state resident, retired San Diego-area community college instructor, Steve Mione, said, “I am grateful to the California Senators for passing the End of Life Option Act. When my terminal melanoma moves to Stage 4 and I will have less than 6 months to live, I will want the option to choose death with dignity. I want to be alert, to say goodbye to my loved ones, and to fall asleep and die peacefully. It’s my right, knowing my end is imminent, to choose a merciful death. It comforts me that the Senators voted to provide me and my fellow Californians with this option.”

Providing peace of mind and control for the terminally ill while safeguarding against coercion for those who are vulnerable, SB 128 is closely modeled on the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.

Death with Dignity National Center’s Vice President George Eighmey said, “Our testimony on the 17 years of flawless implementation of Oregon’s law not only refuted the opponent’s unfounded allegations, but convinced many senators that having a similar California law would provide their constituents with the full range of end-of-life options.”

The Death with Dignity National Center expressed gratitude to the bill’s sponsors, Senators Monning and Wolk, for garnering the necessary support in the Senate to pass SB 128.

“Polls show overwhelming—and growing—support for physician-hastened dying,” said Sandeen. “The time is right for California to adopt this law.”

Mione concurred, saying, “I urge the California Assembly to follow the Senate’s lead and swiftly pass the End of Life Option Act.”

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Image by Josh Mazgelis.

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Afterword: Physician-Assisted Dying Concepts

Physician-Hastened Death as an End-of-Life Option

What does “physician-hastened death” mean? It is an end-of-life option that allows terminally ill patients with less than six months to live to legally request and receive a prescription for life-ending medication from their doctor so that they may end their lives at a time and place of their choosing. In the states where legislatures or voters have legalized the practice, there are safeguards in place to prevent fraud and protect patients. For example, patients must request the prescription multiple times, verbally and in writing, over a span of time to protect against rash decisions. With these and other protections, no instances of fraud have been found in the states where these laws have been enacted.