SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The governor of California signed a bill into law on Monday that allows terminally ill patients to end their lives through a doctor-prescribed lethal dose of medication.
Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown released a statement after signing the legislation, outlining that he had spoken to those on both sides of the issue before making his decision.
“I have carefully read the thoughtful opposition materials presented by a number of doctors, religious leaders and those who champion disability rights,” he wrote. “I have considered the theological and religious perspectives that any deliberate shortening of one’s life is sinful.”
Brown said that he also considered the story of former California resident Brittany Maynard, who moved to Oregon to take her life after being diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer.
“In addition, I have discussed this matter with a Catholic bishop, two of my own doctors and former classmates and friends who take varied, contradictory and nuanced positions,” he explained.
Brown stated that consideration of his own wishes was his ultimate deciding factor.
“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” he outlined. “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. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”
However, a number of pro-life groups expressed disappointment in the signing, including the group Californians Against Assisted Suicide.
“This is a dark day for California and for the Brown legacy,” spokesman Tim Rosales said in a statement. “As someone of wealth and access to the world’s best medical care and doctors, the governor’s background is very different than that of millions of Californians living in healthcare poverty without that same access—these are the people and families potentially hurt by giving doctors the power to prescribe lethal overdoses to patients.”
Marilyn Gold, a senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, noted to reporters that numerous other states have proposed similar laws, but were rejected.
“In state after state after state, there have been multiple attempts, and these measures have failed,” she told the Associated Press.
A report released earlier this year by First Things noted the recent rise in suicide in European countries that have legalized physician-assisted suicide.
“In those countries that have legalized euthanasia (Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg) the numbers seeking the procedure are spiraling ever upward,” it explained. “In 2013 there were 1,087 cases of euthanasia in Belgium, up 27 percent on the figures for 2012, while 2012 saw a 25 percent increase on the numbers for 2011. In Holland, it has been estimated that 12.3 percent of all deaths are now via euthanasia.”
“[R]ecent incidents included one woman with an eating disorder, and another claiming to be suffering from tinnitus left behind two teenage children,” it continued. “Many living in countries where it is outlawed are now taking part in the macabre phenomenon known as ‘suicide tourism.’ So in Switzerland—where assisted suicide is permitted—the number of cases rose 700 percent within roughly a decade, having been boosted by foreigners making the journey to end their lives.”