Cal­i­for­nia gover­nor signs right-to-die mea­sure


In a rare per­sonal mes­sage, Cal­i­for­nia’s 77-year-old gover­nor pro­vided in­sight into his de­lib­er­a­tions be­fore de­cid­ing to sign a bill al­low­ing ter­mi­nally ill Cal­i­for­ni­ans to legally take their own lives, re­flect­ing on re­li­gion and self­de­ter­mi­na­tion as he weighed an emo­tion­ally fraught choice.

Gover­nor Jerry Brown, a life­long Catholic and for­mer Je­suit sem­i­nar­ian, said he con­sulted a Catholic bishop, two of his own doc­tors and friends “who take var­ied, con­tra­dic­tory and nu­anced po­si­tions.”

“In the end, I was left to re­flect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” wrote the gover­nor, who has been treated for prostate can­cer and melanoma. “I do not know what I would do if I were dy­ing in pro­longed and ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain. I am cer­tain, how­ever, that it would be a com­fort to be able to con­sider the op­tions af­forded by this bill.”

Brown’s sig­na­ture on the rightto-die leg­is­la­tion Mon­day capped an in­tensely per­sonal de­bate that dom­i­nated much of this year’s leg­isla­tive ses­sion and di­vided law­mak­ers. Many law­mak­ers also drew on per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence to ex­plain their de­ci­sions to sup­port or re­ject leg­is­la­tion mak­ing Cal­i­for­nia the fifth U.S. state to al­low ter­mi­nally ill pa­tients to use doc­tor-pre­scribed drugs to end their lives.

At the cen­ter of the de­bate was Brit­tany May­nard, a 29-year-old Cal­i­for­nia woman with brain can­cer who drew na­tional at­ten­tion for her de­ci­sion to move to Ore­gon to end her life.

In a video recorded days be­fore May­nard took life-end­ing drugs, she told Cal­i­for­nia law­mak­ers that the ter­mi­nally ill should not have to “leave their home and com­mu­nity for peace of mind, to es­cape suf­fer­ing and to plan for a gen­tle death.”

May­nard’s hus­band and mother were reg­u­lar visi­tors to the state leg­is­la­ture, tes­ti­fy­ing at com­mit­tee hear­ings and meet­ing with un­de­cided law­mak­ers. May­nard’s mother, Deb­bie Ziegler, said Brown “lis­tened with a com­pas­sion­ate heart and a dis­cern­ing mind.”

Ziegler said in a state­ment that Brown’s de­ci­sion “al­lows true prin­ci­ples of mercy to guide endof-life care for the ter­mi­nally ill in Cal­i­for­nia.”

The mea­sure ap­plies only to men­tally sound peo­ple and not those who are de­pressed or im­paired. The bill in­cludes re­quire­ments that pa­tients be phys­i­cally ca­pa­ble of tak­ing the med­i­ca­tion them­selves, that two doc­tors ap­prove it, that the pa­tients sub­mit sev­eral writ­ten re­quests and that there be two wit­nesses, one of whom is not a fam­ily mem­ber.

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